Wales

Childhood obesity: Access to specialists called for

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Media captionA report says specialist care for young people is lacking here

Obese children are having to wait until they are adults to receive some treatments, a national assembly committee has warned.

Assembly members are also concerned the Welsh government is unable to demonstrate the effectiveness of some of its health programmes and calls for better monitoring.

The rate of childhood obesity in Wales is the highest in the UK, figures show.

The government said it would respond to the report in due course.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee acknowledged there was no single solution to the problem but raised concerns about the effectiveness of current schemes.

It also highlighted a lack of certain services for children such as one-to-one care with a specialist, and teams who manage diet, exercise and behaviour.

"Childhood obesity is one of the most pressing problems we need to address, not just for now, but for the long-term health effects on people in Wales," said Ann Jones AM, committee chairman.

"The committee recognises that the Welsh government is using a number of approaches to address the issue but is concerned that it is unable to demonstrate how effective these different programmes are."

Recommendations

It recognised the government's priority in establishing level one and two services to focus on prevention and community and primary care treatment.

But it said that a lack of level three services, such as one-to-one care and work to manage diet and behavioural change effectively leaves children and young people having to wait until they are adults before further stages are considered.

The committee makes six recommendations in its report including calling on the Welsh government to:

  • Ensure that level 3 services for children are put in place across Wales
  • Develop and publish an evaluation framework for its strategies relating to childhood obesity to ensure the performance of strategies can be reliably monitored against outcomes

A report on childhood obesity published by the National Assembly for Wales last year said the rates of childhood obesity in Wales are the highest in the UK, with about 35% of children aged under 16 being overweight or obese in 2011.

Sioned Quirke, a specialist dietician in south Wales, told BBC Radio Wales it was up to "parents to take responsibility" about knowing the principles of healthy eating and taking physical exercise.

She said: "It's not just one cause - it's a multitude of factors that affect your weight."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "The minister welcomes the committee's report and will respond in the usual timescales."

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