obese childThe organisation that sets standards of excellence in health and social care, NICE, has called on local authorities and health professionals to do more to help families address the obesity time-bomb in children and young people. 

In new guidance that puts families at the heart of tackling the issue, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that healthcare professionals, local commissioners and providers of community-based lifestyle weight management services understand the challenges faced by families in their area in accessing support to address their weight. In addition they should encourage parents and carers to help their overweight child to change their behaviour. 

The NICE guidance recommends the promotion of lifestyle weight management programmes which encourage long-term changes in behaviour. It also stresses the importance of helping parents and carers recognise that their child is overweight or obese and the benefits of addressing their weight.
The NICE guidance says about 3 in 10 children aged 2 to 15 years old are either overweight or obese[1] and at risk of various diseases. Type 2 diabetes, which usually develops in middle-aged or older people, is a particular concern. 

Over the past decade more younger people – including children as young as 7, have been diagnosed with the condition. Asthma, and sleep apnoea when breathing is interrupted, are also a risk. Of those who are obese as teenagers, 4 in 5 will probably become obese adults, putting them at risk from serious health conditions including coronary heart disease and some cancers.
 Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE said: “Parents should not have to face the challenge of obesity on their own. Obesity in children and young people is a serious and growing concern. We are recommending family-based lifestyle programmes are provided which give tailored advice. These programmes will also support parents to identify changes that can be done at home to tackle obesity – and maintained over the long-term. Many of them are things we should all be doing anyway, including healthy eating, getting the whole family to be more active and reducing the amount of time spent watching TV and playing computer games.

“Being overweight or obese has a significant impact on a child’s quality of life. It can affect their self-esteem and they are more likely to be bullied or stigmatised. Local commissioners – including local authorities – need to make sure that the right services are available when families need them. They also need to be convenient and easy to access – so parents and their children can stick with them.”

The new NICE guidance gives advice to commissioners on the lifestyle weight management services that should be available to children and young people.
They need to be designed by experts with a good understanding of weight management in children and young people. For example: a state-registered dietitian or registered nutritionist, a physical activity specialist, a behaviour-change expert such as a health promotion specialist or a sport or exercise psychologist, a mental wellbeing specialist such as a health psychologist and a paediatrician or paediatric nurse.  The views of children, young people and their families should also be taken into account.