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More school nurses needed to tackle rising childhood obesity

Obesity among young children is continuing to rise, official figures suggest.

A report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows the number of final year primary schoolchildren - aged 10 to 11 - who were reported as 'overweight' or 'obese' increased to 33.9% this year - up from 33.4% on the previous 12 months.

Children of this age living in London were “more likely” to be overweight, with 37.5% overweight or obese 10 and 11 year-olds reported.

This is compared to the South Central and South East Coast area, where it reported a lower than average 30.8%.

However, national obesity levels among younger children - four to five-year olds - remained the same as 2010/11 at 22.6%.

The North East SHA had the highest recorded prevalence among reception year children at 24.5% while South East Coast again had the lowest proportion of overweight and obese four to five year olds (20.7%).

Trade union Unite has called for greater funding for frontline school nursing posts to combat the obesity problems affecting school children.

Unite professional officer Ros Godson also urged all secondary schools in England to employ a dedicated qualified school nurse to work with the new directors of public health, once local government takes over the public health function in April 2013.

“Evidence shows that overweight children are likely to become overweight adults, so it is vital that qualified school nurses are employed across the country in sufficient numbers to coordinate all efforts to deal with this public health crisis,” she said.

“From next April, the responsibility for school nursing passes to local authorities in England, and many will inherit a greatly impoverished service which cannot cope with the demands. 

“Inaction is inexcusable, when we have such detailed data.”

The National Child Measurement Programme measures more than one million children, which provides a snapshot of obesity levels among children in England.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the HSCIC remarked that the 2013 children obesity report will be “particularly noteworthy” as it will be the first time a high proportion of the Year 6 children measured by the programme will have also been measured as Reception Year pupils.