HUNDREDS of children across the county are at risk of dying at a younger age than their parents, a leading councillor has warned.
Coun Marcus Hart, cabinet member for health at Worcestershire County Council, made the comments after ‘shocking’ figures revealed 606 youngsters aged between four and five have been branded as obese.
This equates to almost ten per cent of the age group in the county, while the report from the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) also revealed 1,076 five-year-olds (17.5 per cent) have tooth decay.
Despite the worrying numbers, Worcestershire is among the lowest for child obesity and tooth decay in the West Midlands.
However, Coun Hart said the figures were a concern and he said the Health and Well-Being Board believe the problem was affecting all ages.
“We know that our high levels of childhood obesity means that this is the first generation in the UK likely to die at a younger age than their parents,” he said.
“This is because childhood obesity is linked to health problems throughout life, affecting mental and well as physical health.”
Coun Hart also said there were a series of action plans in place across the county to address the ‘rising tide’ of obesity.
“We have six new high impact areas for the Health Visiting service which have brought a renewed focus on Healthy Weight and Nutrition,” he said.
“This includes a focus on early detection of child obesity, family nutrition, healthy weaning and encouraging active lifestyles.
“Health Visitors have an important lead role in the promoting healthy nutrition within the wider community and Children’s Centres, including the implementation of a Breastfeeding support programme developed in line with the UNICEF Baby Friendly Standards.”
The analysis by NCB looks at indicators of health and development in early childhood and reveals startling variations, with a five-year-old in Wolverhampton twice more likely to be obese than a child of the same age in Warwickshire, just 50 miles down the road.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive at NCB, said the Government should carry out a national mission over the next five years to ensure heath and development of the first five years of a child’s life is improved.
“It is shocking that two children growing up in neighbouring areas can expect such a wildly different quality of health,” she said.
“As these variations are closely linked to poverty, with those in areas with the highest levels of deprivation more likely to suffer from a range of health issues, we have to ask whether England is becoming a nation of two halves?
“The link between poverty and poor health is not inevitable. Work is urgently needed to understand how local health services can lessen the impact of living in a deprived area.”