Almost 17,000 children offered weight help

Almost 17,000 overweight youngsters have been offered help in the last three years, new figures have revealed.

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Official statistics showed that 16,820 "child healthy weight interventions" were carried out on children aged between five and 15 in the three years up to March 2014.

These involve overweight youngsters being offered help with healthy eating and becoming more physically active.

The number of interventions carried out surpassed the Scottish Government target of 14,910, with all health boards across the country meeting their targets.

A total of 9,450 interventions took place in the two years between April 1 2012 and March 31 2014, with almost half of these (49%) involving youngsters in the more deprived areas of Scotland.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said: "With Scotland's eyes on the Commonwealth Games, these figures serve as a timely reminder of the challenges facing the nation's health.

"It is bittersweet news that over past three years our health boards have helped over 16,820 children, many of whom are classed as clinically overweight and obese. This crucial early support will enable them to live longer, healthier lives.

"However these interventions may only be the tip of the iceberg. In the year of the Games, it is all the more important that SNP ministers secure a legacy which will encourage more families and children to lead healthy lives from the get-go."

Conservative health spokesman and deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "Obesity is the next great public health challenge and it's imperative we identify problems as early as possible.

"The fact that nearly 17,000 children have had to receive these interventions shows just how widespread the issue is.

"At least these youngsters will now have a chance to change their lifestyle and diet at an early stage, and that behaviour may well rub off on the rest of the family."

He added: "While it's good to see the NHS becoming involved like this, we can't forget that ultimately obesity is generally an issue of personal discipline and responsibility."

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