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Health experts 'worried about obesity crisis'

by Tom Sheldrick

Health experts say they're worried about the extent of the obesity crisis in Wales, as figures reveal almost one in three young children are overweight or obese.

It's the first time the heights and weights of five-year-old children have been gathered in this way - and the obesity figure for Wales is significantly higher than in England.

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Headline figures 'are worrying'

The findings are from a national programme run by Public Health Wales, which collected information on the heights and weights of nearly 30,000 reception age children.

This is the first time we have had a clear picture of the how children in Wales are growing and although the headline figures are worrying, this is something that can be reversed.

We must have a response from all sectors in society including health, education and local communities themselves to ensure our children are able to adopt healthy lifestyles.

– Dr Ciaran Humprheys, Public Health consultant

I welcome this first report on the growth of children at school entry across Wales. Having good information is the basis for effective action on healthy child growth and to reduce childhood obesity. This report provides a baseline from which we can monitor our progress as a nation and more locally, into the future. Together, we must work for a healthy, active and resilient community in Wales where all children have the best start in life.

– Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales

Nearly a third of Welsh five year olds are overweight

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Just over 12 percent of children were found to be obese Credit: Press Association Images

For the first time the heights and weights of reception children in Wales have been gathered and the results are worrying. Nearly 30 percent of five year olds are overweight and 12.5 per cent of children are classed as obese.

This prevalence is highest in Merthyr Tydfil (34 per cent) and the national figure for Wales is significantly higher than England, where 23 per cent of children are classed as overweight or obese.

'Strong reasons' for revising obesity surgery criteria

The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) says there are 'strong reasons' for reviewing the criteria for weight-loss surgery eligibility.

It is thought 60,000 people in Wales have a body mass index of 40 or more. The healthy range is 18.5 - 24.9.

Bariatric surgery is a clinically and cost-effective specialised service for the treatment of morbid obesity.

There are strong reasons for revising the current access criteria and considering an increase in commissioning activity.

However, the majority of individuals seeking help to address problems of obesity will require non-surgical management, with bariatric surgery reserved for a small number of carefully selected cases.

– Stephen Harrhy, interim director of WHSSC

Health regulator NICE recommends people with a BMI of 40 or more, or those with a BMI of 35-40 who also have another significant disease, should have access to bariatric surgery.

NICE also says bariatric surgery should be considered as a first-line treatment option for adults with a BMI of 50 plus.

Weight-loss surgery 'could rise from 80 to 300 per year'

It is estimated that 6% of Wales' population is severely or morbidly obese, with a BMI of 35 or more Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/Press Association Images

More obese patients in Wales could have access to weight-loss surgery under plans being considered by health boards.

The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) has agreed to review who meets the criteria for bariatric - or weight-loss - surgery, which could broaden the range of patients eligible.

The number of bariatric surgical procedures in Wales could rise from 80 to 300 per year, over the next five years, following recommendations.

Bariatric procedures can include gastric bypass, a gastric band and vertical banded gastroplasty.

Figures suggest an estimated 180,000 people in Wales – 6% of the population – are severely or morbidly obese.

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Healthy eating is 'down to education'

A cafe in Cardiff sells this £17 breakfast meal - with eight sausages, eight rashers of bacon, six eggs, four beefburgers, hash browns, black pudding, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried potatoes, omelettes, toast and four slices of buttered bread.

The owners say it's only a gimmick - but should the Welsh Government be looking into limiting portion sizes?

The people we spoke to, who were eating in the cafe, said tackling the obesity problem was instead down to education - and particularly down to parents at home.

What do you think? Join the debate on our Facebook page.

Chief Medical Officer: Urgent action needed on obesity

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales is warning that action is needed to prevent obesity reaching 'epidemic proportions' here.

She is encouraging the public to take part in a Welsh Government consultation about whether or not fizzy drinks and food portions should be regulated in an effort to tackle the issue.

You can read more about the consultation and have your say on whether legislation would help reduce obesity rates by visiting the Welsh Government website.

Warning over obesity levels in Wales

We know that the ability to feed a family is driven by the price and availability of food and we know that many of the products high in sugar and salt are the cheaper products. There is no quick way in which we can turn that around but we do need to raise awareness of this and find alternative approaches.

Whilst I would hope any health improvements could be made voluntarily the law has a role in influencing the choices that we are making. I think the Public Health Bill is an opportunity to look at how we can do this.

Obesity leads to serious health problems, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

We need to look at ways in which we can prevent obesity reaching epidemic proportions in Wales.

We are actively encouraging debate around health legislation as part of the current Public Health Green Paper Big Health Debate.

– Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales
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