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Childhood obesity at 'state of emergency'

Health leaders claim "an entire generation is being destroyed by a diet of junk food and sugary drinks". 

In an open letter to Professor Dame Sally Davies, healthcare leaders called for an emergency taskforce made of nurses, doctors, dieticians, dentists and schools to tackle childhood obesity in England. 

The proposed national Child Obesity Action Group (COAG) would aim to balance existing prevention approaches with better obesity treatment services to support children to make healthy lifestyle choices from a young age. 

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and 11 partner organisations have called for: 

 - Increased support for the National Child Measurement Programme. 

 - Improved investment in data-gathering IT programmes for weight management. 

 - More training in malnutrition and obesity for health professionals. 

 - Outreach projects to educate families about the dangers of obesity. 

Around one in three children under the age of 15 are currently overweight or obese. 

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health estimates that the problem costs the NHS around £5.1 billion each year. 

Dr Rachel Pryke, RCGP clinical lead for nutrition said that overweight children are being "set up for a lifetime of sickness and health problems". 

She said: "As parents and health professionals, we need to take responsibility and ensure that every child has a healthy and varied diet and regular exercise.

"Public Health England are already carrying out children measurement schemes and weight-prevention initiatives are widespread - but child obesity treatment provision is a postcode lottery with many areas having limited or no child obesity treatment services at all. Collating these figures is not enough, we need a consistent response to these statistics, right across the country.

"We have reached a state of emergency with childhood obesity and the current threat to public health is most definitely 'severe'." 

Dr Richard Roope, RCGP clinical lead for cancer said: “For the first time, we have a generation of patients who may  predecease their parents. Only 3% of the public associate weight with cancer, yet, after smoking, obesity is the biggest reversible factor in cancers.

“Healthcare professionals are now seeing a range of health problems in children that, in many cases, will develop into serious lifelong illnesses.

“GPs aren't killjoys - we want all our patients to have healthy and fulfilling lives, whatever age they are- but this crisis is happening and it's real. We have a huge problem on our hands when seven year olds present in our surgeries with type 2 diabetes - something that was previously only ever associated with the weight gain of middle-age.

“We are in denial. Our children are currently amongst the most overweight in Europe. This statistic is something that we should all be extremely ashamed of and we all have a responsibility to take action and reverse the trend.”