The number of overweight children in one of West Norfolk’s most deprived areas more than doubles between the beginning and end of primary school, shocking figures have revealed.
Just over half the youngsters in Year 6 in North Lynn have high Body Mass Index (BMI) readings, a total of 50.3 per cent – compared to 23.6 per cent of those in reception.
Government agency Public Health England (PHE) discovered nine areas in the country where at least half of 10 and 11-year-olds in Year 6 were overweight.
The North Lynn ward was seventh worst, ahead of places such as Hackney Wick in East London at 50 per cent.
The worst in the PHE obesity survey was an area of Dover in Kent, where the rate was 56.4 per cent.
At the other end of the scale, three wards – Oxford North, Clevedon Walton in Somerset and Farnham Bourne in Surrey – had rates below 10 per cent.
The lowest reading in West Norfolk was the Old Gaywood ward at 26.8 per cent, with places like Heacham and the Walpoles coming in at 32.2 and 34.1 per cent respectively.
PHE health officials said the figures for North Lynn and other areas with high readings were “deeply concerning”.
They also reinforce the divide between those on higher and lower incomes, with the latter often resorting to cheaper, unhealthy food due to the cost involved in preparing healthier meals.
Eustace De Sousa, national lead for children, young people and families at PHE, said: “It is deeply concerning that child obesity levels double between the beginning and end of primary school. Obesity has been on the rise for 10-to 11-year-olds and the gap between the most and least deprived is widening, which highlights that much more needs to be done to help children and families.”
Mr De Sousa added: “Tackling child obesity is a priority for PHE. We published our sugar evidence review very recently which will help to inform the Government’s childhood obesity strategy.”
The controversial review, finally published last month after being supressed by the Government, warned that Britain’s sweet tooth is fuelling its obesity crisis.
It said that today’s children and teenagers are consuming three times the recommended level of sugar, with adults faring almost as badly.
The report made several recommendations to tackle the obesity crisis, including imposing a ‘sugar tax’ on soft drinks and sugary foods and clamping down on advertising of all sugary products.
The Government is due to publish its childhood obesity strategy in the New Year.
A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “It’s important to encourage a healthy lifestyle from a very young age as diet and exercise habits that are formed in childhood are often carried on in adult life.
“Schools take an active role in promoting healthy eating and physical activity – it’s part of the curriculum and there are policies about what food and drink can be purchased and brought onto the site.”