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Key role for GPs in childhood obesity

Family-based interventions by GPs are the most cost-effective way to tackle the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, an NHS evidence review suggests.

One in 10 six-year-olds is now obese and the figure rises to 15 per cent at age 15, according to a report from the Health Development Agency. Evidence indicates the best way to tackle the problem is by involving the whole family ­ an approach particularly well suited to general practice.

'Opportunistic work in con- sultations should be embedded in ordinary care,' said the agency's research director, Dr Mike Kelly. 'Interventions in primary care are very effective in reducing sedentary behaviour and are also cost-effective.'

Dr Ian Campbell, a GP in Nottingham and one of the report's expert reviewers, said: 'To see a kid who is overweight and not step in is to miss a golden opportunity.'

Dr Campbell, chair of the National Obesity Forum, add-ed: 'Even providing basic advice such as cutting down on soft drinks and eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can make a difference, without necessarily requiring a big time input.'

A third of obese adolescents have two risk factors for co-morbid disease, such as hypertension and glucose intolerance, Dr Campbell said. An- other third have one risk factor.

The study shows the most effective interventions place the primary responsibility on parents to improve diet, increase exercise and change a sedentary lifestyle. There is less evidence for advice targeted at the child alone.

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