LONDON: Hundreds of children and young people are receiving specialist treatment for obesity-related Type 2 diabetes, figures show. Some 745 under-25s were treated in paediatric diabetes units in 2017/18, up 30 on the previous year and up 47 per cent on the 507 cases in 2013/14.
Of the 745 youngsters, 85 per cent (630) were obese. The data, published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), showed more girls than boys received treatment, and they were more likely to be from a non-white or deprived background. Some 45 per cent had high blood pressure, and 34 per cent exceeded the higher target for total blood cholesterol levels. The Local Government Association (LGA), which analysed the figures, said the true number of children treated for Type 2 diabetes is likely to be far higher as many are solely treated in GP services.
Children first began to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the UK in 2000. The LGA said more needs to be done to reach out to certain social and ethnic minority groups and called on the government to reverse £700 million cuts to public health funding. Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Childhood obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges we face and these figures are yet another sad indictment of how we have collectively failed as a society to tackle it. “The government’s childhood obesity plan set out bold ambitions to halve the number of obese children by 2030 and we wait to see what more is in the forthcoming prevention Green Paper. But we need urgent action now.”
Professor Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH, said: “Type 2 diabetes is a serious health condition associated with obesity and if left unmanaged it can lead to kidney failure, eye problems, stroke and heart disease as well as amputations.
“So the fact there has been a 47 per cent increase in children developing the condition is a major worry. Obesity affects one in three children — usually those living in poverty — by the time they leave primary, and it isn’t just a risk of Type 2 diabetes they face.
“There are other serious associated conditions such as cancer and heart disease. The LGA is right to call for reversal to public health cuts — they are damaging to child health, in the fight against obesity and disproportionately affect those most in need. “These fresh calls from the LGA, along with this powerful data, acts as a stark reminder of the urgent need to implement the recommendations set out in the childhood obesity plan, in full and without delay.”
The LGA said councils in England face an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025. Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for NHS England said: “The growing obesity epidemic is dangerous for our young people’s overall health and worrying for the NHS, fuelling a range of avoidable illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes and some cancers as well as costing the taxpayer billions every year.
“The NHS Long Term Plan is playing its part, but it’s clearly time for manufacturers, retailers and other industries to protect our children and young people to step up and take action in what needs to be a concerted effort to tackle obesity.”