Childhood obesity: Time to act

In the March Budget, a new tax on sugary drinks was announced to help tackle childhood obesity and fund sporting activities in primary schools. But how big a problem is childhood obesity? We asked one of our GPDQ doctors, Dr Kazim Dhanji, to tell us more about the issue and how parents can keep their kids healthy…

Public Health England estimates that nearly 1 in 3 are overweight or obese when they leave primary school – a much higher figure than 20 years ago.

The reasons for this increase have been put down to factors such as the easy availability of sugary snacks and fast food, a decreasing emphasis on physical activity and sports in primary school and more sedentary lifestyles spent in front of screens.

Sugar is an excellent energy source which the body relies upon, but when too much is consumed and not burnt off through physical activity, the body stores it as fat.

What are the risks?

Obesity is about more than aesthetics. It can have a large impact on physical health and well-being. Children who are overweight tend to be victims of bullying at school, causing emotional and psychological harm. Obese children tend to grow into obese adults and this can lead to many long-term medical conditions, such as:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Increased risk of heart attack and strokes
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia

What can you do?

Most of us understand how hard it is to lose weight and therefore, like the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

Try to avoid keeping sugary snacks, juices or soft drinks in the house. Instead, stock up on a variety of healthy snacks, such as fruit and vegetables, and encourage your children to drink plenty of water (especially with meals).

Don’t use sweets or unhealthy meals as a reward for good behaviour, or for ‘finishing your greens’. This reinforces the idea that unhealthy food is better and more enjoyable.

The government recommends that children undertake an hour of moderate physical activity every day of the week. One of the best ways to achieve this is to get your children to be active without seeing it as a chore. Encourage them to find an activity they enjoy, perhaps even one the whole family can join in with. In addition to this, small steps such as cycling or walking to school can add up to a real difference.

Bottom line, keep them active and try to make healthy eating a habit from a young age.

If you have any concerns regarding your child’s health or weight, then please do consult a GP.

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