Lothians children beating the bulge

: Activities and healthy initiatives are being credited for the boost in children's health figures. Picture: Alex Hewitt

: Activities and healthy initiatives are being credited for the boost in children's health figures. Picture: Alex Hewitt

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CHILDREN in the Lothians are healthier than ever before, a new report into the waistlines of the region’s youngsters has revealed.

In the most comprehensive study ever into the weight of P1 school children, it emerged that 85.4 per cent of Lothian youngsters were classified as a healthy weight – the highest figure recorded since records began more than a decade ago.

The data, which also revealed a record low in malnourished five-year-olds, has raised hopes a series of initiatives aimed at reducing childhood obesity and promoting healthy living are paying off.

Medical experts, however, warned that further work is needed with the number of overweight or obese children still “too high”.

Almost one in nine of Lothian P1 pupils are classed as overweight, 3.4 per cent are clinically obese and 2.4 per cent of children measured – almost 200 pupils – were “severely obese”.

Dr Graham MacKenzie, consultant in public health medicine for NHS Lothian, said: “We are starting to see a positive trend in the number of Lothian’s children who are a healthy weight. This is good news but the number of ­children who are overweight or obese is still too high. We know that children and young people who are outwith a healthy weight range are more likely to develop health problems when they get older, and it’s important to encourage a healthy ­lifestyle from a young age.

“This is why our approach to tackling this issue includes ­prevention, as well as ­treatment, and in particular we are focusing our support in areas of deprivation.”

The findings buck a national trend, with the number of ­children classified as a healthy weight dropping across ­Scotland to 84.7 per cent.

Programmes introduced in the region in recent years include the Get Going initiative, which offers a free course to help families achieve a healthy weight. The Health 4 U scheme aims to promote health and wellbeing among teenage girls by warning of fad diets, exposing airbrush techniques used in the media and the ­promotion of physical activity.

Edinburgh City Council won praise this week from the Care Inspectorate for its efforts in implementing its Healthy Weight Initiative in schools, alongside NHS Lothian. In Edinburgh, 85.1 per cent of P1 pupils were a healthy weight with 14.7 per cent overweight, obese or severely obese.

Paul Godzik, the city’s ­education leader, said: “We are making progress in tackling obesity through a combination of investing in new sports halls, fitness rooms and all-weather pitches alongside a clear focus on PE targets within schools.

The council also works with Edinburgh Leisure and sports clubs to promote the vast range of sporting and fitness activities that exist in the city.”

Emma Conroy, of Edinburgh Nutrition, said: “These may be the best statistics in a while but there’s no room for complacency here. It’s a complex issue.

“It’s great that there’s more awareness of it in schools but, unfortunately, some people just don’t care.”