The number of children and teenagers admitted into hospital in England and Wales for obesity-related problems has quadrupled in the past decade, according to new research.
Over the last ten years, a total of 20,885 young people aged between 5 and 19 received hospital treatment for conditions linked to obesity. Being obese is known to increases the risk of a number of conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and sleep apnoea.
National surveys in England suggest that around 30% of children aged between 2 to 15 are overweight and 14 – 20% are obese. Doctors say the UK has the highest rate of child obesity in Western Europe.
Admissions for children into hospital with obesity related problems have dramatically increased over the last ten years according to a study by Imperial College in London. They reported that the numbers have increased from 872 youngsters in 2000 to 3,806 in 2009, with teenage girls accounting for the biggest increase. The majority were treated for conditions related to their obesity such as asthma, breathing difficulties during sleep and complications of pregnancy rather than for obesity itself.
The figures indicate a worrying trend in the nation’s health indicating that rates of diabetes and heart disease are likely to also increase as a result. It also shows that the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle and being obese are not confined to adulthood but can cause health problems in young children and teenagers.
Dr Sonia Saxena from Imperial’s School of Public Health, who led the study, said “The burden of obesity is usually thought to have its serious consequences in adulthood, but we now see it manifesting earlier, in childhood.”
National Obesity Forum member Tam Fry said the findings showed the need for Government to take radical steps such as banning fizzy drinks. Commenting on the study he said, “I’m not surprised by this leap, and I won’t be surprised if in five years we’re talking about another significant rise.”
“When it comes to obesity we have taken our eyes off children to such an extent that they are now completely unmonitored and left to get on with it.”
UK to raise concerns about antibiotic resistance in farm animals at G8
It has been reported that the UK Government will lead talks about antibiotic resistance in animals and humans at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland this month.
The UK Science Minister, David Willetts, has already warned that the spread of drug-resistant bacteria poses a serious threat to future generations and action is needed to help tackle the growing problem. He will raise the issue of overuse of antibiotics by GPs and hospital doctors and try to restrict the usage of antibiotics in farm animals.
There is growing concern that over use, and inappropriate, use of antibiotics by doctors is resulting in more antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. In addition to the problem in the human population, there are also fears about the over-use of antibiotics in the farming industry. Animals are often routinely treated with antibiotics during the rearing process to prevent infections, promote growth and keep the animals free from disease. This routine use for many years has now become a serious concern and the Government wishes to clamp down on excessive use of antibiotics, while seeking investment for the discovery and delivery of new drugs and improved international collaboration on disease-monitoring.
Currently there are very few new antibiotics being developed, and there is a fear that antibiotic resistant infections could be become more widespread – making some infections almost untreatable.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper Willetts said, “Across the G8 we should regard the spread of antibiotic resistance as a global challenge that is up there with climate change, water stress and environmental damage, and there are genuine policy consequences that follow from that.”
President of the British Veterinary Association, Peter Jones, said: “We know that veterinary use of antimicrobials is well regulated in the UK and Europe but this is not necessarily the case across the globe. Action being taken in Europe is important but it is just a drop in the ocean and so we must promote the responsible use of antimicrobials internationally. We hope David Willetts will be able to draw on the positive measures taken in the UK and Europe to encourage other nations to take appropriate action.”
Smoking tests for expectant mothers
Expectant mothers should take breath tests to prove if they are smoking or not during their pregnancy, new NHS guidance is recommending. It is estimated around 1 in 5 women smoke whilst pregnant, which is believed leads to lower birth weight and other complications in pregnancy and labour.
In an effort to lower the numbers of women who smoke in pregnancy the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has said women should be tested for carbon monoxide found in cigarettes during antenatal appointments, and given help to quit if levels are too high. The proposals have been backed by midwives.
The test would be carried out using a breath test to check for carbon monoxide levels during antenatal appointments throughout a pregnancy. Those with high levels of carbon monoxide exposure, which harms babies’ development and growth, will be referred to another appointment in “smoking cessation services” and any discussions would be recorded in the mother’s notes.
Some health care experts have backed the proposal saying it would be beneficial in showing women the effect that smoking can have on the health of their baby.
However, the proposal has been met with some opposition, with parenting groups saying it is not for midwives and the state to start testing mothers to be to see if they smoke. There is also concern that it could affect the professional relationship between expectant mothers and midwives if women feel they are being pressurised to take the test – although the test would remain optional.