Child obesity is complex – you can’t end it by simply saying eat less

From the start to the end of ­primary school, the number of children living with obesity ­doubles.

The latest data shows one fifth of children aged 10-11 in ­England live with the condition.

However, the reasons why a child becomes obese can be complex, and the solutions differ too.

The Care of Childhood Obesity clinic at the Bristol Royal ­Hospital for Children has been supporting young people since the early 2000s – and the NHS is keen to learn from its progress.

The CoCO clinic is a collaboration between clinicians and researchers from the University of Bristol, University Hospitals Bristol and the National Institute for Health.

It takes a holistic approach to treating obesity that combines nutritional advice, psychological and social support, and medical interventions.

Now, drawing on the clinic’s experience and expertise, 1,000 children a year with severe obesity will get intensive support with a pilot of 15 NHS projects across the country.

The patients, aged from two to 18, suffer health complications such as type 2 diabetes, liver disease and abnormal sleep, and will be supported to lose weight through the services.

They will also get bespoke care packages developed with their families, featuring diet plans, mental health support and coaching.

Interventions will be provided by a full clinical team, including support from dieticians, psychologists, specialist nurses, social workers, youth workers and a paediatrician to ensure all health needs of each child are met.

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

“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.

Many vulnerable young people struggle with weight problems ( Image: Getty Images)

“The NHS Long Term Plan committed to take more action to help children and young people with their physical and mental health, and these new services are a landmark moment in efforts to help them lead longer, healthier and happier lives.”

Professor Julian Hamilton-Shield of Bristol University says: “Using a team of experts from many disciplines, including specialist dieticians, social support workers and mental health professionals, we can pinpoint exact causes of weight gain and create tailored treatment plans for each child to help accelerate weight loss and address the complications caused.

“The creation of these 15 new clinics across the country demonstrate the NHS’s commitment to help tackle obesity and provide more local access to specialist weight management support for children in England.”

At last, a joined-up approach to childhood obesity.