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Under-Elevens Hurtle Towards Obesity, British MPs Call for Action

A group of powerful British MPs, members of the Committee of Public Accounts, has come out strongly against officials given the charge of tackling child obesity//.

Levels of obesity in children aged two to 10 years have risen from 9.9 percent to 13.4 percent between 1995 and 2004, according to the Health Survey for England.

At least one primary school child in seven is now classed as obese.

The Public Accounts Committee report adds that obesity costs the nation around £3.5 billion, which will rise to £4.5 billion in three years if the trends continue.

Expressing disappointment in their report titled ‘Tackling Child Obesity - First Steps’, Edward Leigh, MP, chairman of the committee said: "The extent to which children in this country are obese is alarming.

“More alarming still is evidence that unless we act, the proportion of children who are obese will increase sharply. "It is lamentable that, long after the target was set, there is still so much dithering and confusion and still so little co-ordination.”

The departments of Health, Education and Culture, Media and Sport had set a joint target three years ago to halt the increase in obesity among under-11s by 2011.

But according to the MPs, no solid evidence of accomplishments has been seen so far.

A lot of criticism has been showered on the government’s decision to keep information from parents that their child was overweight, unless they asked for it.

Emphasize the MPs, unless parents know that their child is having a problem with their weight, they will be unlikely to seek corrective measures, thereby setting up a whole generation for health problems.

Government officials from the Health department had decided on this in order to avoid the child being ‘bullied’ or ‘stigmatized’.

Says Tam Fry, for the National Obesity Forum, said: "The Department of Health was totally wrong when it decided to make it difficult for parents to find out about their children's weight.

"I am absolutely clear that the parents should get this information. It is essential that they should receive it as of right."

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat spokesman, says: "Unless action is taken now an entire generation will suffer increased rates of serious disease like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

Another issue has been regarding the advertisements of junk food.

The MPs in their report call for a ban on advertisement of junk foods that target children.

In response to the report, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint has said that there is no easy answers or quick fix solutions to childhood obesity.

“The evidence on which this report is based was gathered in 2005 and early 2006. In the interim we have achieved an enormous amount”, she claims.

The government also insists progress has being made in encouraging healthy food choices and physical activity.

A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation spokesman has put the scale of the problem as "alarming", with over 1.7 million children in England alone predicted to be obese by 2010.

He opines that the government must ensure that it leads the fight, and does everything it can to strive to reach challenging targets, including enforcing bans on junk food advertising to children.


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