London Olympic boroughs among worst for childhood obesity in England

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the olympic boroughs of ondon have seen childhood obesity rates soar to one of the highest in the country in the decade since the games, an analysis by the Evening Standard reveals on Wednesday.

Critics said that ten years later, the promised legacy of a healthier and more active population has not materialized in the neighborhoods of the capital that hosted the event.

Six Olympic boroughs saw obesity levels rise, while four – Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich, Newham and Hackney – were among the 12 worst local authorities for overweight Year 6 children in England, the data shows.

Jeremy Hunt, who was Culture Secretary at the time of the Games, told Standard: “London 2012 has exceeded expectations when it comes to the regeneration of Stratford [in Newham] but disappointed us all by not moving the dial further in terms of sports participation.

The government has promised an increase in popular sports participation as part of the long-term legacy of the 2012 Games.

Several initiatives were put in place, including Sport England’s £135m People Places Play scheme, which aimed to improve local facilities and training and encourage people to try out Olympic and Paralympic sports.

But the number of adults playing sport at least once a week has declined in the three years since the Games and the government committee was disbanded in 2015.

Across England, one in seven children are obese by the age of 5, rising to one in four by the age of 11, according to the latest data from the Parliamentary Health Survey.

Levels were highest in the most deprived areas of the country. Barking and Dagenham, Newham and Tower Hamlets have the highest levels of child poverty in the UK and are also home to the most diverse communities.

In the 2020-2021 school year, 36% of black children were likely to be active, compared to 48% of white children. The SportInspired survey found that this divide was mainly due to the fact that black children were twice as likely to come from less affluent families.

The year before the pandemic, a Sport England report found there was a 3.6% increase in the number of children participating in one hour or more of physical exercise per day, compared to the year former.

However, young people from the poorest families were the least likely to be active, with 42% exercising on average 60 minutes or more per day, compared to 54% of children from more affluent families.

In Barking and Dagenham almost a third of children were considered obese the year before entering secondary school, with only Walsall in the West Midlands being worse in England.

Two-thirds of London boroughs have seen levels of childhood obesity rise in a decade.

About 23% of 6th graders in the borough were obese in 2009/10. By 2020, it had risen to 29%, according to data from Trust for London.

In the same age group, Newham saw levels rise from 26 to 27.9 per cent, while Hackney fell from 25.6 to 27.4 per cent.

Greenwich saw the biggest rise of 6.6%, from 21% to 27.6% over the decade.

The other two Olympic legacy boroughs – Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest – have also seen levels rise.

By contrast, Richmond in south-west London had the lowest levels of overweight or obese year 6 children in England.

Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Haringey, Camden and Lambeth all saw declines in childhood obesity levels over the same decade.

Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge said: “The 2012 London Olympics was a unique time of joy and celebration as the nation came together.

“But it was based on the promise to inspire a generation and when it comes to the health of our young people, unfortunately that promise has fallen flat.”

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas said: “The London 2012 Games certainly left us all with many sporting memories and a real sense of togetherness sparked by the brilliant Opening Ceremony. The legacy can be seen in the physical transformation of Stratford, but the impact is highly questionable in terms of regeneration extending beyond Olympic Park to my constituency of Dagenham and Rainham.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it was “making progress in increasing national participation in sport and physical activity until the impact of the pandemic nullifies these gains”.

The National Audit Office has suggested the government needs to do more to reach key groups who are statistically less likely to be active, including women, poorer communities and black and Asian people.

Newham, one of London’s most ethnically diverse boroughs, has lost two of its five council-run leisure centers in recent years. Manor Park fitness center closed last year to make way for accommodation, while Balaam Leisure in Plaistow was forced to close in 2019 due to “serious structural issues”.

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, said: “The enthusiasm for sport and fitness was a real and lasting benefit of London 2012. Unfortunately, it was not enough to reverse the rise in childhood obesity. We need a new commitment from government to tackle child poverty. Statutory child poverty reduction targets were – tragically – scrapped three years after the Games. »

A government spokesperson said: “Over the past decade we have made the nation’s health and fitness a priority.

“We have provided an unprecedented £1 billion to ensure the survival of the grassroots, professional sport and leisure sectors during the pandemic, and have prioritized their reopening to ensure access remains accessible. to all.

“We recently announced £320m for PE and Sport Premium schools for 2022/23, and over £250m to build or upgrade thousands of football pitches and tennis courts across the UK. United.”


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