Diet coaches for two-year-olds as number of obese children nearly trebles in a decade

14 June 2023, 10:08

Amanda Pritchard will warn of the 'terrible human cost' of obesity
Amanda Pritchard will warn of the 'terrible human cost' of obesity. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Diet coaches will be rolled out to thousands of children as young as two after the number of obese youngsters admitted to hospital almost trebled in a decade.

Some 9,431 children with obesity were admitted to hospital in England in 2021/22 compared to 3,370 in 2011/12, according to new figures from NHS England.

The health service said 10 new clinics will open this year and will provide "intensive" support to thousands of severely obese children and their families.

Around 3,000 obese children and young people aged between two and 18 will receive help to lose weight, treatment for complications as well as tailored care packages developed with their family, which could include diet plans, mental health care and coaching, a spokesman added.

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The new clinics - which will be run by specialist doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and dieticians - will bring the number across England to 30 as part of an £18 million project over the next two years.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard will announce the new clinics at the NHS ConfedExpo conference in Manchester.

During her speech, she is expected to say: "Obesity can lead to a string of serious illnesses such as cancer and diabetes - bringing a terrible human cost and also a real pressure on the NHS.

"Doing nothing now is not an option and so these new clinics will bring together a range of experts in one place providing intensive - but sensitive - physical and mental support for thousands of young people and their families."

Professor Simon Kenny, NHS England's national clinical director for children and young people, said: "Living with excess weight can cause problems affecting every organ system resulting in long-term complications such as early death, type 2 diabetes, stroke, early joint replacements and mental health issues.

"These clinics' holistic approach to treating obesity and its causes will help children and young people in a way that respects them and works with the specific factors of their individual situation.

"We are committed to helping as many children and young people as possible with their physical and mental health, and these additional clinics are an important step in helping vulnerable children and young people live healthier and happier lives".

Children who will qualify for treatment at one of the NHS Complications from Excess Weight clinic will have a body mass index (BMI) score above the 99.6 percentile for children their age and a complication of excess weight.

Health Minister Neil O'Brien said: "We are determined to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and these clinics are a great step forward to get more youngsters the support they need to manage the complications linked to obesity and achieve a healthier weight."