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Obesity levels in Year six children rise again

20.1% of 10 to 11-year-olds and 9.5% of four to five-year-olds are obese

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Levels of obesity amongst Year six children (aged 10-11) in England have risen slightly again from 20% in 2016-17 to 20.1% in 2017-18, according to official statistics published today by NHS Digital.

The percentages equate to 116,000 children being obese in 2017-18.

The National Child Measurement Programme measures the height and weight of more than one million children in England annually and provides data on the number of children in Reception and Year six who are underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese or severely obese.

Earliest comparable figures date back to 2009-10 when the obesity prevalence in Year six school children was 18.7%, meaning that obesity levels in this age group have risen 1.4 percentage points over eight years.

However, the National Child Measurement Programme, England – 2017-18 report also showed that obesity prevalence for younger Reception-aged children (4-5 years old) remained similar at 9.5% (58,000 children) in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.

This represents a decrease of 0.3 percentage points from the earliest comparable year in 2006-07 when obesity prevalence in reception-aged children was 9.9%.

NHS Digital’s statistics also showed that more than a third (34.3%) of Year six children and 22.4% of reception children were either overweight or obese in 2017-18.

The proportion of underweight children was higher in Year six (1.4%) than in Reception (1%).

Data showed that 4.2% of Year six school children and 2.4% of children in Reception were classed as severely obese in 2017-18.

Obesity prevalence for children living in the most deprived areas of the country was more than double that of those living in the least deprived areas.

Reception age obesity prevalence ranged from 5.7% in the least deprived areas to 12.8% in the most deprived, and in Year six, this ranged from 11.7% to 26.8%.

Regional data included in the report showed how obesity prevalence varies by local authority. This ranged from Kingston-upon-Thames at 4.9% to 14.4% in Knowsley for Reception year children.

Year six obesity prevalence ranged from 11.4% in Richmond upon Thames to 29.7% in Barking and Dagenham.

The obesity prevalence was higher for boys in both age groups – in Reception, 9.9% of boys and 9.1% of girls were classified as obese. In Year six, this was 22.2% of boys and 18% of girls respectively.

Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “The government has already shown it is serious about tackling childhood obesity so providing the actions set out in Chapter Two of the Childhood Obesity Plan are enacted, such as preventing junk food advertising on television before 9pm, I am reassured that these stats will begin moving in the right direction.

“However, as the figures have shown today, 20% of children are already obese by the time they leave primary school and this is totally unacceptable. Access and funding of high-quality weight management services are urgently needed now if we are to ensure no child slips through the net and all children, no matter where they live are given the same opportunity to good health.”

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