The Daily Telegraph

Pre-school children to have NHS anti-obesity coaches

- By Laura Donnelly HEALTH EDITOR

CHILDREN as young as two will be prescribed diet coaches as part of a national drive against obesity, the new head of the health service is to announce.

The NHS is to create a network of specialist clinics amid concern that millions of children are so overweight it is damaging their health.

Around 1,000 children a year, aged between two and 18, will be offered diet plans, mental health support and coaching in 16 pilot schemes. The help will be aimed at those suffering health complicati­ons related to severe obesity.

Health officials said families would be offered “group sessions” with support from dietitians, psychologi­sts, specialist nurses, social workers, youth workers and paediatric­ians.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said: “The pandemic has shone a harsh light on obesity with many vulnerable young people struggling with weight gain during the pandemic.

“Left unchecked, obesity can have other very serious consequenc­es, ranging from diabetes to cancer. This early interventi­on scheme aims to prevent children and young people enduring a lifetime of ill-health.”

She will outline the plans in a speech to NHS managers today.

Until 2000, no cases of type 2 diabetes had been recorded in children in the UK. But NHS Digital figures for 2019-20 reveal that it now affects 1,560 under18s in England.

Severely obese children can also develop heart disease, liver conditions, breathing problems, sleep issues and mental health problems.

Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, has run a similar service since 2018. Julian Hamilton-shield, its professor of diabetes and metabolic endocrinol­ogy, said: “Many children and young people with excess weight experience significan­t complicati­ons that can make them very unwell.

“Using a team of experts from many discipline­s … we can pinpoint the exact causes of weight gain and create tailored treatment plans for each child to help accelerate weight loss and address the complicati­ons caused.”

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