Underweight babies and obese primary school pupils: Redbridge’s child health worries

Redbridge faces a rising childhood obesity problem as new figures show 25 per cent of Year 6 student

Redbridge faces a rising childhood obesity problem as new figures show 25 per cent of Year 6 students are overweight. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Images - Credit: PA WIRE

The number of children being born underweight in Redbridge is higher than the national average, but one in four of the borough’s children are obese by the time they leave primary school according to a new report from Public Health England.

Redbridge’s Child Health Profile 2019 reveals that although “overall, the health and wellbeing of children in Redbridge is better than England”, there are still several areas the borough needs to focus on.

The report reveals that 3.9pc of babies born in the borough are medically underweight – which means they weigh less than 2.5kg or 5.5lbs.

The national average is just 2.8pc.

The borough is also underperforming when it comes to MMR jabs, with just 85.3pc of children being vaccinated – well below the 95pc guideline recommended by the government.

But Public Health England did reveal that Redbridge performs better than the national average when it comes to teenage pregnancies, with 61 girls under the age of 18 conceiving in 2016 - around 11 girls per 1,000 living in the borough.

This is better than the national average across England which stands at 19 conceptions per 1,000 girls.

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And Redbridge’s new mums are much more likely to breastfeed – 81pc of mothers do it – and are also less likely to smoke while pregnant, with just 3.5pc of mums-to-be not giving up the habit.

The report also revealed that infant mortality rates across the borough are better than the English average. But tragically 12 infants still died before turning one last year.

According to Public Health England, one-in-10 Redbridge children (11.3pc) entering the school system in Reception classes are obese, with this rising to one-in-four (25pc) by the time they leave primary school in Year 6.

In 2017/18, there were also 14,504 A&E attendances by children aged four or younger, which when broken down into a percentage is more than usual. But the number of young people being admitted for self-harm is bucking the national trend and decreasing.

Overall, levels of child poverty are better than elsewhere in the country, with just 14.7pc of children under 16 living in poverty. But the rate of family homelessness is worse.

A Redbridge council spokeswoman said the local authority works “incedibly hard” to keep the borough’s children healthy, but knows there is still more to do.

She added: “Delivering the very best health facilities and programmes, including building two multi-million sport complexes at Mayfield School and Loxford School with a third planned for Wanstead and investing £1.6m to improve play equipment in parks highlights our efforts to get children and young people outdoors and active.

“To help tackle child obesity we also ensure school meals meet the national school food standards and raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity among children.

“We also work closely with schools on their travel plans, to promote walking and cycling to school to increase activity levels.

“To prevent low weight births that risk the child’s health, we’ve been addressing possible causes such as smoking, drinking alcohol during pregnancy and expectant mothers being overweight.

“We have a stop smoking service tailored to pregnant mothers with advice and support on quitting and a local substance misuse service for specialist support to help them into long sustainable recovery.

“Physical activity programmes are also available for women to get supervised help with both physical activity and nutritional support.”

Redbridge clinical commissioning group declined to comment.