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17,000 children are offered help to reduce their weight

ALMOST 17,000 overweight children in Scotland have been offered help in the last three years, figures have revealed.

Weight training: Youngsters are encouraged to enjoy a more active lifestyle in an effort to reduce their weight. Picture: Getty Images
Weight training: Youngsters are encouraged to enjoy a more active lifestyle in an effort to reduce their weight. Picture: Getty Images

Official statistics show 16,820 "child healthy weight interventions" were carried out on youngsters aged five to 15 in the three years to March.

These involve overweight youngsters being offered help with healthy eating and becoming more physically active.

The number of interventions carried out surpassed the Scottish Government target of 14,910, with all health boards across the country meeting their targets.

Jim Hume, health spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "With Scotland's eyes on the Commonwealth Games, these figures serve as a timely reminder of the challenges facing the nation's health.

"It is bittersweet news that over past three years our health boards have helped 16,820 children, many of whom are classed as clinically overweight and obese.

"This crucial early support will enable them to live longer, healthier lives.

"However, these interventions may only be the tip of the iceberg. In the year of the Games, it is all the more important that SNP ministers secure a legacy that will encourage more families and children to lead healthy lives."

A total of 9,450 interventions took place between April 1, 2012 and March 31 this year, with almost half of these (49 per cent) involving youngsters in the ­country's more deprived areas.

Jackson Carlaw, health ­spokesman and deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: "Obesity is the next great public health challenge and it is imperative we identify problems as early as possible.

"That nearly 17,000 children have had to receive these interventions shows how widespread the issue is.

"At least these youngsters will now have a chance to change their lifestyle and diet at an early stage, and that behaviour may well rub off on the rest of the family."

He added: "While it is good to see the NHS becoming involved like this, we can't forget that, ultimately, obesity is generally an issue of personal discipline and responsibility."

Figures earlier this year show one primary one child in seven in Scotland is overweight or obese, increasing their chances of developing serious health problems in later life.

The report on the Body Mass Index (BMI) of four and five- year-olds starting school in the 2012/13 year found that, while the proportion of children with a healthy weight increased slightly compared to the previous year, 14.6 per cent of children were still too heavy.

A total of 8.8 per cent of that age-group were overweight, while 3.4 per cent had a body mass index that was classed as obese. More than two per cent were severely obese.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said there had been a stabilisation in rates of obesity but "far too many of us and our children remain overweight".

She added: "So, it is clearly to be welcomed that health boards have successfully met and exceeded this target.

"We have taken direct action to try and prevent children becoming obese, offering clear, helpful and supportive advice to help children stay at a healthy weight.

"We are continuing to fund child healthy weight interventions and through Supporting Healthy Choices work directly with producers and retailers to promote healthy food options, particularly to our young people.

"We are also increasing opportunities for children to get involved in sport and physical activity, through active schools and our target of all primary children having two hours of PE lessons a week."

The Scottish Government also recently announced a £50 million investment in school sport.

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