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GP claims that childhood obesity begins in the home

By Will Clark

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Now medical experts are warning that if there is not a major lifestyle change, the number of people in the far north who could contract diabetes by the time they reach 30 could increase significantly.

Wick GP Ewen Pearson said the percentage of overweight children he has seen at his surgery has risen in recent years.

His views come after NHS Highland discussed the health and wellbeing of youngsters earlier this week.

Director of public health Margaret Somerville revealed nearly a quarter of children in the board’s patch are overweight or obese and that almost 25 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds were smokers.

Dr Pearson said the trend is mirrored in Caithness and believes that the lack of action within families is to blame for the situation.

“The figures for obesity in children certainly rings true in Caithness and it is a problem which originates from the parents,” he said. “Perhaps parents who aren’t looking after themselves so well through healthy eating and exercise are transmitting their attitudes on to their children.

“The message needs to be driven across at an early age to make sure these problems don’t start and lead on to problems in later life.”

Dr Pearson adds: “Obesity is a result of a lack of exercise – kids should be looking to get an hour’s physical activity every day.

“If parents are involved in exercise and eating healthy themselves, it sets a good example to them.”

Dr Pearson fears the number of people contracting diabetes 30 years sooner than expected is also on the increase.

He predicts if this pattern continues, incidence of the condition will continue to rise and put a strain on health services.

“There is a longer term view that if children are obese they would develop diabetes in later life but at an earlier stage than normal,” he said.

“What we are used to seeing is people in their 60s and 70s developing diabetes due to obesity, but now we are getting people who are in the their 30s and 40s contracting it.

“Although we’re not seeing the problem in children, it is almost like we’re storing up problems for the future.

“With diabetes comes cardiac arrests, kidney damage and problems with morbidity as well as more pressure on the health service.

“It’s a concern and unusual to see obese kids – you have to wonder why they are getting into that state.”

Primary schools in Caithness are running several initiatives to promote healthy lifestyles to combat the problem.

A total of 144 primary schools in the Highland Council region are involved in the High 5 healthy weight initiative, a school-based programme focusing on food, health, physical activity and emotional literacy.

In addition, schools in the far north are also operating their own healthy eating initiatives.

While this is welcome, Dr Pearson is keen to advise parents to be more careful about controlling their children’s diet.

If they have any concerns about their kids’ weight, he said they should consult their GP to receive advice.

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