We need to talk about childhood obesity.

A new study has found obese children aged two to five are up to three times more likely to be admitted to hospital than healthy weight children.

The research from The University of Sydney shows the obesity epidemic in pre-school aged children is clogging the healthcare system and driving up costs.

Published in Obesity, authors examined the healthcare use of 350 children’s medical appointments, including all doctor and specialist visits, medical tests, diagnostics, medicines and hospital admissions.

The study found respiratory disorders and ear, nose and throat disorders are the most common reasons for hospitalisation.

Compared with healthy weight children, obese children have 60% higher total healthcare costs and are two or three times more likely to be admitted to hospital.

“Childhood obesity is a serious public health issue, and is becoming an increasing problem in children under five years old,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Alison Hayes.

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“In addition to the health impacts of childhood obesity, there are major economic impacts, which may occur earlier than previously thought.”

Nearly one in four children in Australia is overweight or obese before they start school.

“Preventing obesity in the early childhood years may be a cost-effective way to tackle the obesity crisis, improve the nation’s health and reduce the economic burden of obesity,” said Prof Hayes.

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