Digital data collected by the NHS show that there has been an increase in childhood obesity over the pandemic.
Although obesity has risen for all changes, the most worrying age group is those within their last year of primary school. Here, general rates have risen from 21% to 25%. However, in poorer areas, rates have increased by twice the amount.
Dr Max Davie of Pediatrics and Child health discusses how “lockdown may have been a key factor, [but] we mustn’t assume that this year's results are an aberration since there may have been other factors”.
Other potential factors include rises in poverty and mental health issues.
When regarding how to address this concerning issue, Carolin Cemy, of the Obesity Health Alliance states “We need to break the junk-food cycle to improve children's obesity”.
However, this will most likely only provide a short term fix, as it glosses over the root causes of the problem.
The annual Broken Plate report found that the average cost of healthy food in 2019 was around £7.68. This is much higher than the £2.48 cost of less healthy food with the same caloric intake.
Therefore, advocating for healthier foods will make little difference for those who cannot afford it, even if they want to change their diets.
A long term solution is harder to come to than perceived. This is due to so many factors contributing to the problem.
One starting point, however, would be directly acknowledging the roles that social and economic factors play in health problems.
Furthermore, actions need to be taken in all areas of Government, as the issue has grown to such a scale it has become too large for the Department of Health and Social care to tackle alone.
The Government's proposed scheme to “level up” may also provide some solution to child obesity. If it tackles the growing inequality gap within UK society, families may have a larger disposable income to afford the healthy food that contributes to good health.
Higher wages may also help to achieve this, as it may prevent parents from working long hours as they may now earn more. This would give them time to prepare healthy meals.
However, until the factors of child obesity are addressed, the issue will grow.
Currently, there are 36,000 nursing vacancies within the NHS, creating a waiting list of around 6,000,000. The high waiting list means that many children won’t get the treatment they require.
This could potentially even result in a lower quality of education that they receive as they may be spending more time off school ill than learning.
Therefore, the issue of child obesity is more concerning than most perceive it to be.
Research compiled by: Jonas Theaker
The Telegraph: “Eating a healthy diet is too expensive for many Britons, research finds”
The Telegraph: “Boris’s obesity strategy must tackle inequalities in order to ‘level up’ Britain”
BBC: “Pandemic sees big rise in obese children in England”