Childhood obesity rates soar in Spen

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ONE in three children in the Spen Valley is obese or overweight, according to a report in the health of our towns.

The shocking figures show that Spen has the highest obesity rate for children in the whole of Kirklees, with one in nine – or 11 per cent – of all four and five-year-olds tipping the scales at dangerous levels.

A further 12 per cent of reception age children are classed as overweight.

The levels rose to 15 per cent of children being classed as overweight by the time they are in year six, with 20 per cent being classed as obese.

In total, 31 per cent of 11-year-olds are in danger of developing weight related health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, when they are older.

The levels in Spen are worse than other parts of Kirklees, where one in six children and one in five adults have been found to be obese.

The figures were relayed to councillors and townspeople at the Spen Valley area committee on Tuesday night, by NHS Kirklees senior public health manager Rachel Spencer-Henshall.

She said: “We know there are generally higher rates of childhood obesity in more deprived areas, such as the Spen Valley. It also has the highest levels of adult obesity and we know that children of parents who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight themselves.

“The biggest contributing factor to obesity is the shift towards eating a diet of foods that are high in fat and sugars and leading a lifestyle where physical activity levels are low.”

Mrs Spencer-Henshall added that a myriad causes were behind the figures, but both NHS Kirklees and Kirklees Council were working together to improve the health of young people in the valley.

She added: “The aim is to help people to make small improvements to becoming healthier. The smallest changes can have the biggest benefits.”

Kirklees Council runs its MEND programme for children aged five to seven in the Spen Valley, every Saturday at Whitcliffe Mount Sports Centre. The free classes teach children and parents about health and nutrition and exercise.

The programme was funded by the area committee and focuses on getting families to participate in healthy, fun activities.

Abi Mackenzie, programme manager for MEND 5-7, said: “Encouraging your child to eat healthily can be tough for parents.

“At MEND 5-7 parents learn how to make small changes to the food their family eats and it gives them creative and fun ways to get their child more active.”

Parents can contact the scheme on 01484 234096 to book a free place.