Childhood obesity is a growing issue in the UK that is on track to become an epidemic problem. Over one fifth of children in Reception are overweight or living with obesity and this rises to 37.7% of children in Year 6.
Children have high energy requirements because they are growing. A varied and nutritious diet is essential for their development. However, like adults, if they take in more energy in the form of food than they use up, the extra energy is stored in their bodies as fat.
Problems childhood obesity can cause
Children who are overweight tend to grow up into adults who are overweight. This means they'll have a higher risk of developing serious health problems in later life, including heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Being overweight as a child can also cause psychological distress. Teasing about their appearance affects children's confidence and self-esteem and can lead to isolation and depression.
How to help your child become a healthier weight
Small lifestyle changes go a long way and can make a big difference. Here are some helpful tips:
- Find support - speak to your child's school nurse, GP or practice nurse who will help support your family with diet and lifestyle changes if needed. You can use the NHS find a GP service if you need to
- Make some healthier food swaps - there are lots of easy ways to cut back on sugar, salt and saturated fat – get started with our top tips and simple swaps. Food facts has useful information to get you started
- Eat balanced meals - use The Eatwell Guide and find out what a healthy, balanced diet looks like
- Try some new recipes - get inspiration to help your family eat well every day with these healthy recipes
- Get moving - try boosting your family's activity levels in 10-minute bursts with these NHS Disney-inspired play along games
- Less screen time, better sleep - sitting around too much makes it more likely your child will put on weight and can affect how well they sleep. Sleeping well helps kids develop, stay healthy and perform better at school. Try these sleep and relaxation tips
Children's weight management services in Richmond
The school nursing team at Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust run a weight management and lifestyle service for children and young people (children in Reception to Year 13) who are identified as overweight and obese. The service uses the Family Start Programme model and is offered to children who are:
- Identified as overweight or obese at Reception through the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP)
- Identified as obese at Year 6 through the NCMP
- Identified as obese through other processes with school nurse involvement (e.g., child protection)
How the programme works
The programme is family based, with all appointments involving a family member (generally parents) and information provided for the whole family. Teenagers can be seen on their own provided they have parental consent. Families are also able to self-refer by emailing the team.
The programme is delivered by a named school nurse who sees referred children every three to four months. Children are given a tailored plan that includes:
- Diet and healthy eating habits
- Physical activity
- Reducing time spent being sedentary
- Building activity into daily life
- Strategies to change the behaviour of the child and their close family members
For more information about the service and to self-refer, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can visit our healthy schools section to learn more about school-based initiatives that can prevent childhood obesity.
Updated: 09 February 2023