Coalville county councillor warns of pandemic that 'nobody wants to talk about'

  Posted: 02.09.21 at 15:30 by Hannah Richardson, Local Democracy Reporter for Leicestershire

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A Coalville councillor has warned Leicestershire is facing a pandemic of unhealthy children - with almost one in five of youngsters of reception age classed as overweight or obese.

Cllr Craig Smith, who represents North Coalville, highlighted the problem at a Leicestershire County Councilmeeting, which was discussing a new strategy of how to tackle problems with children’s health.

He said: “We’re actually in the middle of another pandemic that nobody wants to talk about and that’s childhood obesity.

“We’ve now got 19 per cent of reception age children who are already obese and overweight.

"There is a pandemic of overweight children coming up, we’re getting more and more each year.

“There’s a massive problem in schools and these kids aren’t just going to be overweight and unhealthy for the rest of their lives, they’re going to have a lifetime of mental illness.”

The council’s new child health programme will cover all children between the ages of zero and 19

The council’s new child health programme will cover all children between the ages of zero and nineteen as well as young people with special needs to the age of 25.

There is likely to be very little change in the scheme for the 0-10 age group compared to the current healthy child programme.

The only difference will be extra health check ups at three to four months old and three-and-a-half years old will be carried out.

No extra measures are planned to tackle child obesity for the age group other than those which are currently in place.

However, a number of changes have been planned for the 11-19 age group after an informal consultation with communities.

These include an increased focus on obesity, emotional well-being, including body image and self-esteem, healthy relationships and alcohol abuse.

Deputy chair of the committee, Councillor Phil King, added a concern over the programme’s focus on alcohol abuse rather than substance abuse more generally.

He said: “In the presentation, [it was] mentioned there would be a focus on alcohol misuse. Personally, I think just to focus on alcohol and not the multiple other elicit substances that young people are prone to use, some of which have very harmful and serious effects both physically and psychologically on young people, I do think this healthy child programme does need to focus on those as well.”

Kelly-Marie Evans, public health consultant for Leicestershire County Council, explained the data they have suggests alcohol is the primary concern in substance abuse among young people. She added that, in communities where substance abuse such as drugs is more prevalent, they are working on a strategy to address that.

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