One-in-four Enfield children overweight when starting school

Council calls for ban on junk food advertising near schools and more government funding to tackle problem, reports James Cracknell

Enfield Council wants to see junk food advertising banned near schools (credit Gilly via Unsplash)

Enfield has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in London, according to new data.

Newly-published NHS statistics on children’s health show that for 2021/22 the borough is ranked as the fourth-worst in the capital for obesity in reception-aged children, with 25.5% of four and five-year-olds found to be either overweight or obese.

For children in year six, aged ten or eleven years old, Enfield has the twelfth-worst obesity rate in London, with 41.7% overweight or obese. This still puts it above the England and London averages.

Enfield Council is responsible for public health and promoting healthy eating in schools across the borough. A spokesperson said: “We work closely with NHS England, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and the North Central London NHS to help children develop healthy lifestyles and behaviours early in life.

“Childhood obesity is a recognised risk factor for adult obesity, itself linked to increased morbidity through such as diabetes and heart disease.

“The earlier we help children and young people establish good habits such as healthy eating and physical activity, the better long-term health outcomes we will see.

“Our schools work hard with parents and pupils on the importance of healthy eating, to adopt healthy eating policies, educate pupils on the importance of healthy eating, food growing and offer high quality nutritious school meals.”

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Enfield has long been ranked poorly for child obesity, but the problem appears to be getting worse among the youngest age group. In 2018/19, 24% of reception children were either overweight or obese (seventh worst in London), while for year six children the figure was 42.3% (third worst).

The council says more funding is needed from central government to tackle the problem. “We have introduced a number of interventions including the launch of community pantries to make good quality, nutritious food available to as many residents as possible,” the spokesperson added.

“However, we are of the view that the reductions in public health grants should be reversed by the government and further reforms need to be made to tackle childhood obesity more effectively.

“We believe government should legislate to ensure there is better labelling on food and drink products, and for local authorities to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools.”

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