Sheffield children could be banned from leaving school in obesity battle

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CHILDREN in Sheffield could be banned from leaving school at lunchtime as the city’s youngsters continue to battle the bulge.

Health bosses today said tackling South Yorkshire’s childhood obesity epidemic is a top priority as new figures reveal the problem is on the rise.

The government’s newly-released public health profiles for Sheffield and Rotherham show the number of Year Six children classed as obese is above the national average.

In Sheffield, 20.2 per cent of children between the ages of 11 and 12 qualify as obese according to the NHS’ definition, while in Rotherham the figure is 21.6pc. The average in England for 2012 is 19 pc.

Sheffield has seen a rise of 1.6pc and in Rotherham it has increased by 1.4pc.

Only in Barnsley has the figure decreased from 21.4pc in 2011 to 19.7 this year.

The official figures come after The Star’s series of stories in February revealed that one in five of Sheffield 11-year-olds were obese, despite the city spending almost £10 million over three years on fighting the fat.

Health bosses in South Yorkshire are targeting teachers and parents in schemes designed to tackle childhood obesity.

NHS Sheffield has developed a ‘school strand’ of the national Change4Life programme, which includes the development of a Stay on Site Programme across the majority of the city’s secondary schools. The primary care trust is asking schools to adopt and enforce the policy and improve pupils’ dining experience to increase school meal uptake.

Childhood obesity can be a strong indicator of weight-related health problems in later life, increasing the risk of developing conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer.

Bethan Plant, a public health specialist at NHS Sheffield, said: “Childhood obesity is a key priority for us in Sheffield as the health risks to children and young people who are overweight are significant and the total costs associated with overweight and obesity are estimated to rise to £165m by 2015 in Sheffield alone.

“As a result, a number of services have been put into place to support young people and their families to maintain a healthy weight. Everyone’s hard work here in Sheffield and in particular that of the families and children themselves is starting to make a real difference.”

This summer, Rotherham’s primary care trust is sending 21 children to a residential weight-loss summer camp which had a 100pc success rate in previous years.

Joanna Saunders, head of health improvement for NHS Rotherham, said: “Over the past four years we have invested £4m in services to address weight management in children and adults.

“We run a programme for children aged four and up called MEND which focuses on family intervention and we have more specialist services at the Rotherham Institute of Obesity.

“We’ve had 135 children attending the summer camp over the past few years and all of them have managed to lose weight there and continue to lose weight.”