The number of children being treated for type 2 diabetes in paediatric diabetes units (PDUs) has risen more than 50% in five years, the charity Diabetes UK says, warning increasing obesity rates are putting more children are risk of developing the condition.
In an analysis published today, the charity revealed there were 621 children and young people with type 2 diabetes being treated by PDUs in 2015/16 which rose to 973 in 2020/21, according to data from the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit Annual Report 2020-21.
This was the biggest increase in childhood obesity since records began in 2006, Diabetes UK warned, and meant one in seven children now living with obesity.
Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew said the charity was very concerned this childhood obesity spike would translate into an even greater increase in children with type 2 diabetes in the coming years.
The crisis was being fuelled by long-standing health inequalities, he noted, and made worse by the soaring cost of living.
The data showed that four in 10 children and young people living with type 2 diabetes were from the most deprived areas of England Wales, compared with only one in 19 from the least deprived areas, with this pattern mirroring data for childhood obesity prevalence.
Mr Askew said the trend was particularly concerning now that the UK Government had put on hold key parts of its childhood obesity commitments.
He called for an urgent reversal on the decision to delay restrictions to junk food marketing and unhealthy food promotions and said the Government must go much further to meet its goal of halving childhood obesity by 2030.
‘The UK Government is letting our children down. With soaring numbers of children now living with obesity, and numbers diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on a very concerning climb, we are facing a perfect storm which risks irreversible harm to the health of young people,’ he said.
‘Government needs to entirely rethink its commitment to child health. This must start with urgently reversing the decision to backtrack on their obesity strategy commitments and go further still with bold steps to address childhood obesity and poorer outcomes for children living in poverty in the forthcoming Health Disparities White Paper.’
Type 2 diabetes was known to have more severe and acute consequences in children, the charity said, and without the right treatment and support, could lead to serious complications that include kidney failure and heart disease in later years.
This comes after a Diabetes UK report warned that Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) must urgently draw up plans to catch up on the backlog of diabetes care, with concerns people with condition are not accessing services as needed.