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Obesity crisis: shock findings

PUBLISHED: 17:54 07 February 2008 | UPDATED: 10:24 03 July 2010

AFFLUENT rural areas of Norfolk are suffering from a childhood obesity crisis.

The figures shatter for the first time the commonly-held assumption that children living in poor social conditions in urban neighbourhoods are more likely to be obese or overweight.

AFFLUENT rural areas of Norfolk are suffering from a childhood obesity crisis.

The figures shatter for the first time the commonly-held assumption that children living in poor social conditions in urban neighbourhoods are more likely to be obese or overweight.

The groundbreaking study of more than 12,000 Norfolk schoolchildren shows that most of the county's “hotspot areas” - those with the highest prevalence of overweight or obese children - are within rural communities.

Hotspots include Great Yarmouth, Sheringham and rural areas around King's Lynn and in north Norfolk, while the healthiest areas are near Dereham and Fakenham, and in a rural sweep around Norwich. The findings also tie in with claims from a leading paediatrician earlier this year that middle-class parents are fuelling obesity by feeding children as young as two with fatty and sugary recipes inspired by celebrity chefs.

The study was led by Norfolk Primary Care Trust, supported by Norfolk County Council, and will offer a blueprint for tackling childhood obesity in the county. It will enable health trusts and local authorities to target resources at the problem, ensuring the correct messages are reaching the right communities, and discover why more children in certain areas are likely to be obese.

Last June and July, as part of a national initiative, Norfolk PCT measured the heights

and weights of more than

85pc of children, focussing on reception class pupils aged 4-5 and 10 and 11-year-olds in year 6 across 344 schools. The study also analysed the findings based upon postcode areas.

It found that 30.4pc of year 6 pupils were overweight or obese and 20.7pc of reception class children. However, both figures were still marginally below the average for England of 31.1pc and 22.8pc.

The PCT has produced a health map to help illustrate which areas of the county, including Great Yarmouth and Waveney, have the greatest proportion of overweight and obese children. This mapping has also identified large differences in the proportion of overweight and obese children across the county.

In England more than 14pc of children are obese, but unless action is taken that could hit 20pc by the end of the decade.

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