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Obese children to get tax-payer funded NHS diet coaches

Dr Hilary Jones discusses UK's 'obesity epidemic' on GMB

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Children between 2 and 18, and experiencing health complications related to severe obesity, will receive tailored care packages developed with their families, which could include diet plans, mental health treatment and coaching. Group sessions will be provided with a full clinical team, including support from dieticians, psychologists, specialist nurses, social workers, youth workers and a paediatrician to ensure all health needs of each child are met.

As well as providing expert treatment, the services will identify the factors causing obesity in children, considering their mental and physical health.

It is believed the diet coaches will be offered to around 1,000 children a year.

Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of the NHS in England said: “The pandemic has shone a harsh light on obesity, with many vulnerable young people struggling with weight gain during the pandemic.”

She continued: “Left unchecked, obesity can have other very serious consequences, ranging from diabetes to cancer.”

The leading NHS official stated that the plan was designed to prevent future crises.

She said: “This early intervention scheme aims to prevent children and young people enduring a lifetime of ill-health.”

One in five children is overweight or obese by the time they start primary school, and one in three reaches this point by the end of it, official data show.

It follows warnings that the crisis has left more than 1,500 children with Type 2 diabetes – a condition that normally affects the middle-aged.

Furthermore, children who are severely obese can also develop difficulties such as breathing problems, sleep issues and mental health problems, which can dramatically impact their quality of life.

In England, the number of children living with obesity doubles from the start of primary school to the end of primary school – with the latest data showing that one-fifth of children aged 10-11 are obese.

Some 2.5 million children in England are affected by excess weight or obesity, with 1.22 million significantly obese and eligible for treatment according to official guidance.

Obesity prevalence – including severe obesity – was more than twice as high in year 6 (21 percent, which equates to 103,362 children) compared with reception (9.9 percent – 39,404 children).

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Last year, Boris Johnson launched an anti-obesity strategy, after saying his own brush with death after contracting Covid last year had made him realise he was “too fat”.

The strategy included plans for a ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9 pm and ending buy one, get one free deals on unhealthy foods high in salt, sugar and fat.

Speaking of the initiative, Julian Hamilton-Shield, professor of diabetes and metabolic endocrinology at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, said: “Many children and young people with excess weight experience significant complications that can make them very unwell.”

He continued: “Using a team of experts from many disciplines, including specialist dieticians, social support workers, and mental health professionals, we can pinpoint the exact causes of weight gain and create tailored treatment plans for each child to help accelerate weight loss and address the complications caused.”

The 15 new services are based on an existing service at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, which has been operating since 2018.

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