Leeds becomes first UK city to lower childhood obesity rate after teaching parents to be stricter

The results have been called 'promising' by government officials

Sarah Young@sarah_j_young
Wednesday 01 May 2019 15:58
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Weight loss expert criticised over suggestion fat parents are to blame for childhood obesity

Leeds has become the first city in the UK to report a reduction in childhood obesity after introducing mass parenting lessons on how to be stricter.

The city-wide initiative which saw parents follow an eight-week programme on how to “take charge” and set boundaries for their children has been linked to a significant drop in obesity levels.

The scheme, which costs councils £50 per family, is aimed particularly at lower income areas, with lessons given to around 6,000 families in Leeds.

In light of the initiative, a new study by Oxford University has revealed that while obesity rates among five-year-olds in England remained unchanged between 2013-4 and 2016-7, at around 9.4 per cent, rates in Leeds dropped to 8.8 per cent over the same period.

The data comes from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), which requires all children to be weighed at the start and end of primary school.

The biggest decline in obesity in Leeds is 6.4 per cent in the reception class, at about the age of four.

From 2016 to 2017, 625 fewer reception-aged children were obese.

The research compared Leeds with 15 other cities in England – none of which recorded such a turnaround.

The findings, which were presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow on 28 April, have been praised by government officials with public health minister Seema Kennedy, calling them “promising.”

“It is encouraging to see what can be achieved locally through interventions like this,” Kennedy added.

Professor Susan Jebb, of Oxford University, the government's former advisor on obesity, said: “If you look at it by deprivation, the most deprived group in Leeds is doing especially well. That is astonishing.

”It's about helping parents find solutions. None of us are born with parenting skills. Most of us have to make it up as we go along.”

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, one in three children leaves primary school overweight or obese and the number of children classed as seriously obese is at a record high.

The NHS states that obesity is estimated to affect around one in every four adults in the UK and around one in every five children aged 10 to 11.

It adds that obesity and being overweight also contribute to at least one in every 13 deaths in Europe.

Body mass index (BMI) is widely used as a simple and reliable way of finding out whether a person is a healthy weight for their height.

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For most adults, the NHS states that having a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 means you're considered to be a healthy weight. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered to be overweight, and someone with a BMI over 30 is considered to be obese.

However, it adds that BMI shouldn't be used to work out whether a child is a healthy weight, because their bodies are still developing. Instead, it recommends speaking to your GP if you want to find out whether your child is overweight.

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