Quarter of children in north Wales overweight or obese

Media caption,

Parents tried to get their children to stay away from junk food.

Action is needed to cut the number of north Wales children who are overweight or obese when they start primary school, a report has warned.

More than a quarter of four and five year olds in the region are in the category.

Betsi Cadwaladr health board has drawn up a three-year plan, including helping pregnant women to manage their weight.

But a health expert said being overweight was becoming a "social norm".

Just over 28.6% of four and five year olds in the region are overweight, including 12% who are obese, according to a report to be considered by the board on Thursday.

The report, "Children's health and wellbeing: The impact across the life course", said this was a problem which continued into adulthood in a "vast majority" of cases.

It warned: "Obesity in childhood leads to significant health issues across the life course, and some areas of north Wales have the highest prevalence of childhood obesity in the UK."

The report also found "considerable gaps in north Wales in obesity services to support children and families".

Across Wales, the Child Measurement Programme, published in August 2016, found 26% of reception-aged children were classed as overweight or obese.

Sioned Quirke, an obesity specialist and spokeswoman for British Dietetic Association Wales, said: "Published figures every year are showing an increase [in overall obesity].

"We are not even at the stage where they are levelling out.

"That's not surprising taking into account the type of patients we are seeing every day and the numbers being referred to us. The numbers are increasing every year."

Media caption,

In 2017, Prof Nadim Haboubi said action was needed to stop children being affected by an obesity "explosion" in Wales

She warned the amount people are overweight by is also "getting worse".

"It's something that's becoming quite apparent, it's becoming the social norm," Ms Quirke added.

"People will compare themselves to other people and if others are obese or bigger than them, we think we are ok.

"People constantly say 'I'm not that big' but they are comparing themselves to people who are bigger."

The health board's draft three-year plan includes improving breastfeeding rates, infant feeding in general and healthy weaning, as well as reducing obesity levels in mothers.

It also focuses on promoting the new national guidance on childhood obesity which includes which includes ensuring children play outside every day, limiting screen time, daily fruit and vegetable intake and having enough sleep.

The report has recommended the board continues to use "evidence-based actions" which have been set out in the plan.