Child health: Winning war on obesity

A report has revealed we are starting to win the war on childhood obesity but there has been a worrying rise in the number of children and young people who self harm
A report has revealed we are starting to win the war on childhood obesity but there has been a worrying rise in the number of children and young people who self harm

A report has revealed we are starting to win the war on childhood obesity but there has been a worrying rise in the number of children and young people who self harm.

The number of children being admitted to hospital for mental health-related conditions, self-harm and substance abuse is still worryingly high.

Breastfeeding rates are below the national average and there is a high number of babies born to mums who smoke.

Vaccination rates are high and improving thanks for awareness campaigns in the county, and there are fewer children in poverty than previously.

The statistics are included in the Northamptonshire Child Health Profile for 2014, released by Public Health England this month.

The profile uses a range of data from various sources to paint a picture of the overall status of children in the county.

One of the most alarming statistics is that in 2012-13, 411 children were admitted to hospital suffering from mental health issues. This is against a national average of just 88. There were also 518 people aged between 10 and 24 admitted as a result of self-harm. The national average is 346 per area.

And there were 77 people aged from 15 to 24 admitted for substance misuse, which is above the national average of 75.

A spokesman for NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, which runs Northamptonshire’s Healthcare Budget, said bosses were working with young people, schools and youth organisations to understand why self-harm and mental health admissions were so high.

NCCG is also monitoring local hospital admissions and trying to gain better understanding to enable it to work on improved self-harm prevention programmes.

A spokesman said: “We also adhere to NICE guidance in assessing children and young people to see whether they are at further risk or require additional support.

“In Northamptonshire, we are proud that we treat each case as a potential risk to ensure the safety of children and young people and it accounts for our higher numbers of admissions.

“We have put together a range of tools for schools and youth organisations to help them identify children at risk of self harm or developing mental health conditions at an early stage.

“We have recently relaunched the Ask Normen website, which contains information and resources on a range of subjects as well of a directory of services for young people with mental health conditions or at risk of self harm. It is important to recognise there is also a difference in self harm as a coping mechanism for stress and life-threatening self harm requiring hospital admittance.

“We are developing a conference and further training support to help professionals identify warning signs and better understand how they may support children and young people with emotional well-being needs.”

The figures also showed that the numbers of women attempting breastfeeding are below the national average at just 73 per cent. The national figure is 74 per cent. Medical professionals say breastfeeding has many life-long emotional and physical benefits. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to have childhood cancers, asthma, allergies, diabetes and digestive disease.

Lactation consultant Ann Davison runs community interest company Baby Ways which helps support breastfeeding mums. She said there are lots of projects under way to help improve rates.

She said: “Kettering General Hospital reached stage 2 in the Baby Friendly Initiative last summer which will certainly help.

“Seven years ago our breastfeeding rates were just under 50 per cent so we are certainly improving.

“All the women who begin breastfeeding or mix-feeding are given a text or a call from us and 30 per cent of those then have a home visit. I think it’s important because it’s so hard for women to pick up the phone and admit they are finding it hard to breastfeed.”

The report also showed that childhood obesity rates are slowly dropping. There were 1,886 children aged between four and 11, compared with 1,945 last year.

School sports manager Matthew Peleszok runs the Corby, Oundle, Thrapston School Sports Partnership which encourages young people to get involved in sport.

He said that Government funding had paid for Change4Life sports clubs in 16 primary schools in the area. The clubs specifically target children who are overweight or at risk of being overweight in the future.

Matthew said: “The clubs encourage young people to get involved in sport for 30 minutes a week over a 24-week period.”

He added that the partnership had now been funded for an extra eight years which meant that it could do long-term work to change attitudes.

Part of this was to start family fun sessions to encourage adults to do sport with their children.

He said: “We know that some adults don’t even know how to play with their children.

“They just plonk them on the sofa, so no wonder they experience problems with obesity later in life.”

Health report in numbers

MMR vaccination uptake 2014 - 95.6% (93.9% in 2013)

Sexually transmitted infections - 2,787 (3,348 in 2013)

Children achieving 5 A* to C GCSEs - 4,628 (4,296 in 2013)

Children in care - 730 (795 in 2013)

Hospital admissions due to substance abuse - 77 (73 in 2013)

Smoking mothers at time of delivery - 1,321 (1,466 in 2013)

Hospital admissions for mental health conditions - 411 (446 in 2013)

Hospital admissions as a result of self-harm - 518 (241 in 2013)