Kids as young as two referred to £500k obesity programme

Children as young as two are being referred to a specialist weight programme to help combat their obesity.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that NHS Lothian has spent close to £500,000 in the last two years on a children’s weight management service.

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One expert on obesity has described the situation in the region as an “absolute horror” story.

The figures for 2016-17 show that 379 youngsters aged between two and 17 years were referred for treatment at a total cost to the health board of £229,546 – £605 per child.

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum said it was “no surprise” the health board were having to invest the sums involved.

He said: “It’s absolute horror that we have overweight and obese children. To me it’s no surprise that this sort of money is being spent by Lothian.

“I find it a horror because we have known for a long time that the initiation or the first seeds of obesity are implanted in the womb and we have done nothing about addressing that issue.

“So, it’s being going on for a long time and finally Lothian are having to spend a lot of money in treating something which is eminently preventable.”

According to Scottish Government statistics, a fifth of children in their first year at primary school are at risk of being overweight or obese. Researchers found the ­proportion of four- and five-year-olds carrying too much weight had barely changed in a decade.

Prof Alison McCallum, director of public health and health policy, said: “NHS Lothian provides a range of services to support children and young people who are above a healthier weight than is recommended for their age and height.

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“These services are for people aged from 2-17 years. Between 2015-16 and 2016-17 there was a very modest increase in the number of children using these services – 24 more children (6.5 per cent).”

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday moved to restrict the advertising of fatty and sugary food and drink as part of the 16 measures outlined in her Programme for Government.

Jane-Claire Judson, director of charity Diabetes Scotland, said: “It is both worrying and encouraging that our NHS has invested in weight management programmes for children as young as two.

“While it’s positive children are getting the support they need to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, it is very concerning that such a service is required.”