Child obesity a worry for Bedford health boss in wake of Covid pandemic

Nationally there has been a 20 per cent increase in obesity for children in Year 6.
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Childhood obesity is at the forefront of Bedford council’s public health boss’ mind as one of the lasting impacts of the Covid pandemic.

Figures show that nationally there has been a 20 per cent increase in obesity for children in Year 6.

But it’s not all bad news, as he added that as a result of the pandemic, people were more willing to consider other people’s wellbeing, and less likely to force themselves to come to work when sick.

Childhood obesity fearsChildhood obesity fears
Childhood obesity fears

Bedford Borough Council’s chief officer for public health, Ian Brown, told the Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee chair that he had not yet seen the data for Bedford, but that “nationally, for children in Year 6, year on year, they measured a 20 per cent increase in the prevalence of obesity”.

“So that’s children who have a BMI that is in 95th percentile, or higher, compared to the reference population,” he said.

Mr Brown added that it remains to be seen to what extent that is a statistical outlier and whether the data will hold up in the longer term when normal routine measurements return.

“But that will have profound consequences for that generation’s health in the future as they move into adulthood with that excess weight,” he said.

“I think for that cohort that is going to have a really big impact on their health for the rest of their lives.”

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In terms of the changes to people’s behaviours, Mr Brown said one of the positive things from Covid-19 is people’s awareness of how their health and other people’s wellbeing.

“Being infectious when having common respiratory diseases impacts other people., we all carrying that with us now, we’re much more aware of that,” he said.

“I think that moving into flu season, for example, we will be much more conscious of other people’s health, I think we’ll be much more prepared to take individual actions that will help improve the health of others and protect them from disease.

“For example, wearing a mask in busy places during flu season will be a much more commonly accepted behaviour.

“Also we will hopefully see a reduction in presenteeism in offices as well where people come in and you know battle in no matter what.

“When they’re feeling a bit groggy and they’re probably full of cold I hope now that people will think twice about whether or not they can work from home in those circumstances if they’re well enough to do so.

“So I think that will be a major behavioural change for us and I think those ways of working that fit around people’s lives much more flexibly will be a positive change that we will take forward with us.

“Both as a council, but I think more widely as a society as well,” he said.

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