Is the childhood obesity crisis ‘levelling off’?

3 February 2015

Childhood obesity

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), there are figures to suggest that the childhood obesity epidemic in England is starting to level off – at least in younger children.

A 20 year study of more than 370,500 patients has found that between 1994 and 2003 the prevalence of overweight and obesity in all children increased by just over 8 percent each year. But the rate slowed down significantly between 2004 and 2013 to 0.4 percent – suggesting it may be stabilising, say researchers.

Why has childhood obesity stabilised?

One theory the researchers propose is that the rates have reached ‘a point of saturation’. Alternatively, public health campaigns may be starting to work, they say.

What now?

Although the researchers have speculated the dropping rates might be down to public health campaigns, they go on to say that the techniques used by local authorities in England are not based on evidence and there is little in the way of outcomes data to determine their success.

Moreover, many parents and healthcare staff still aren’t taking childhood obesity seriously, they say, suggesting that it may be timely to revisit the idea of a ‘fat tax’.

“Thus far, we simply do not seem to have the tools to manage this problem effectively,” write the editorialists. “The childhood obesity crisis in England is far from over, and our current weapons in the war against fat seem unlikely to provide the answer.”

They add, “The recent call to the chief medical officer to develop a ‘child obesity action group’ may prove a first step in what is likely to be a very long campaign.”

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