National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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Families need support to help tackle child obesity time-bomb

Local authorities and the NHS should do more to support families to help them tackle the time-bomb of obesity in children and young people, says NICE.

Families should be encouraged to eat healthily and be physically active by taking up activities that children enjoy such as active play and dancing, as well as reducing the amount of time spent playing computer games and watching television.

Obesity rates are on the rise across England with around 3 in 10 children aged 2 to 15 now classified as either being overweight or obese.

In some parts of the country, the NHS has performed weight-loss surgery on obese children as young as 14.

The UK now has the highest rate of child obesity in Western Europe which is estimated to be costing the NHS about £4.2 billion a year.

Despite this, a recent analysis by the Local Government Chronicle has revealed that one in five councils in England allocates no funding towards programmes to tackle child obesity.

This latest NICE guidance recommends that commissioners in local authorities and the NHS, and providers of community-based services, understand the challenges faced by families in their area in accessing support to address their weight.

Parents and carers should be helped to recognise that their child may be overweight or obese and then encouraged to help their child to change their behaviour.

NICE recommends that a lifestyle approach should be taken to helping overweight or obese children which encourages long-term changes in behaviour rather than quick fixes.

Providers of lifestyle weight management programmes should ensure that programmes include positive parenting skills training to support changes in behaviour, tailored individual plans appropriate for the child, help to identify opportunities to become less sedentary and to build activity into their daily life, and ongoing support and follow-up.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of Public Health at NICE said: “Parents should not have to face the challenge of obesity on their own. Obesity in children and young people is a serious and growing concern. We are recommending family-based lifestyle programmes are provided which give tailored advice.

“These programmes will also support parents to identify changes that can be done at home to tackle obesity - and maintained over the long-term. Many of them are things we should all be doing anyway, including healthy eating, getting the whole family to be more active and reducingthe amount of time spent watching TV and playing computer games.

“Being overweight or obese has a significant impact on a child's quality of life. It can affect their self-esteem and they are more likely to be bullied or stigmatised. Local commissioners - including local authorities - need to make sure that the right services are available when families need them. They also need to be convenient and easy to access - so parents and their children can stick with them.”