‘Extremely concerned’: latest NHS figures reveal 20% of children are obese

NHS statistics show a significant hike in the number of hospital admissions connected to obesityA dentist is calling on industry colleagues to help change patients’ diets as new NHS statistics show a significant hike in the number of hospital admissions connected to obesity. 

In the years 2019/19, there were 876,000 hospital admissions where obesity was a factor – an increase of 23% on the previous period.

There was also a 4% jump in hospital admissions that were directly attributable to obesity (11,117 in total).

The report, Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, England (2020), also found the majority of adults were overweight or obese. This figure stood at 67% for men and 60% for women – while 20% of Year 6 children were classed as obese.

Other statistics include:

  • The number of adults who were overweight or obese increased with age among both men and women. This was highest among men aged between 55 and 64 (82%) and women aged between 65 and 74 (70%)
  • For children living in the most deprived areas, obesity prevalence was more than double the rate of those living in the least deprived areas – for both reception and Year 6
  • 26% of children who had obese mothers were also obese. This compared with 16% of children whose mothers were overweight but not obese, and 7% of children whose mothers were neither overweight nor obese
  • Similarly, 22% of children with obese fathers were also obese. This compared with 14% of children whose fathers were overweight but not obese, and 9% of children whose fathers were neither overweight nor obese.

James Goolnik, clinical director at Bow Lane Dental, said the dental team is crucial to combatting the prevalence of obesity.

‘I am extremely concerned after reading the latest figures,’ he said.

‘As a nation we are not improving our overall health. Obesity is a major global problem. The latest research from the University of Liverpool showing it increases your risk of dying from COVID-19 by 37%. As a result, we can see why we are on track to have the highest death toll in Europe.

‘Having the majority of adults being overweight or obese we wonder why our children are increasingly so. Our children see us as role models and in their early years, we control exactly what they eat and drink.’

Preventable statistics

In 2018, figures show that just 18% of children aged between five and 15 consumed at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

James said: ‘Habits need to be set up early. There should be a focus on shifting the school rewards culture away from sweets and chocolates towards sugar-free, non-food solutions.

‘Today, dental decay is the number one reason children aged five to nine are admitted to hospital in England. We know you can successfully reverse type 2 diabetes by changing your diet. But many patients do not know that tooth decay is 100% preventable as well.’

He believes dental teams have a duty to encourage healthy lifestyles when they see their patients.

‘As dental care professionals, we see our patients more regularly than our medical colleagues. We can see when our patients’ diet is off-kilter as decay takes as little as three months to manifest in our patients’ mouths,’ he said.

‘The dental team need to step in to help change our patients diet and behaviour. Studies show that in as little as six days your palate can recalibrate after reducing sugar and processed foods in diet.

‘Why not get your team to join your patients on a 14-day kick sugar challenge? We need to make sure every patient contact counts. We should work on an action plan with our colleagues and help motivate them to change their diet.’

James points to the work of the charity Rewards Project as a good example of raising awareness and helping the country get healthier. He added: ‘It aims to improve the long-term health of British children, with the aim to get schools and nurseries sugar free by 2023.’

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