Almost a quarter of children who are starting school in Scotland are at risk of being overweight or obese, and that children in less affluent areas are at higher risk, the latest figures from the Information Services Division Scotland on body mass index statistics in children show.
The Body Mass Statistics of Primary One Children in Scotland report shows that there are ‘substantial inequalities’ in child weight across different areas of the country. In 2018/19, almost a quarter of children (26.5%) in the most deprived areas were judged to be at risk of being overweight, compared to 17.5% of children in the least deprived areas. This shows an increase in the number of children at risk of obesity from the most deprived areas from the previous year.
Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland Director, said: 'Nurses are at the frontline of dealing with the effects of obesity; in clinical settings and in the community. It’s a serious issue with complex causes and one that can cause real problems for people. If we aspire to be a population that makes healthy choices, as a society we have to do everything we can to help make that happen. More needs to be done to protect our young from ill-health associated with obesity, now and later in their adult life. This includes improving nutrition in early life, and changing the environment to enable children to make healthy food and physical activity choices'.
This issue appears to be widespread. A report from the National Child Measurement Programme earlier this year also found that there has been a rising prevalence of obesity in reception-aged schoolchildren in England in the last two years.
Cath Morrison, a public health programme manager for NHS Lothian, commented on the issue: ‘We can see there remains significant inequalities when it comes to the risk of obesity and children who live in poverty compared to those who do not. It is something we, as a society, and the authorities really have to act on. For families in this modern world it can be difficult to choose the healthier options, especially for ones involved in a day-to-day financial struggle’.