Section 2: Understand how healthy eating can improve the health and wellbeing of children aged 2- 5 and into adulthood

Since 2016, the government have been attempting to make changes to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity in the UK.

“Every developed nation is facing up to the problem of childhood obesity. This is an issue, eventually, no country will be able to ignore, I want us to be the first country in the world to do something about this and that is why I have set a new national ambition to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030 and significantly reduce the health inequalities that persist.” (1)

Childhood obesity is one of the biggest health problems the UK faces. Nearly a quarter of children in England are obese or overweight by the time they start primary school aged five, and this rises to one third by the time they leave aged 11 (2). Our childhood obesity rates mean that the UK is now ranked among the worst in Western Europe. (3)

According to the Department of Health and Social Care evidence suggests that on average, all children are exceeding calorie intake recommendations. Childhood obesity is not just about eating too much sugar; it is about the whole diet. We know that on average overweight and obese children are consuming up to 500 extra calories per day. (4)

Childhood obesity and excess weight are significant health issues for children and their families. It can have serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, that can persist into adulthood. The number of children with an unhealthy, and potentially dangerous weight, is now a national public health concern.

Obesity in children is also associated with poor psychological and emotional health and many children experience bullying linked to their weight. Associated risk factors for children are;

Lifestyle – a poor diet and low levels of physical activity are the primary causal factors of excess weight.
Parental health – Children who live in a family where at least one parent or carer is obese are more at risk of becoming obese themselves.

  1. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in 2018 stated in Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action Chapter 2
  2. NHS Digital. (2017). National Child Measurement Programme 2016/17
  3. OECD. (2017). Health at a glance 2017: OECD Indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing.
  4. Amounts differ by age and gender, please see Public Health England. (2018). Calorie Reduction: The scope and ambition for action: Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/calorie-reduction-the-scope-and-ambition-for-action
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