Children living in most deprived areas ‘more than twice as likely to be obese’
By Catherine Wylie
Children living in the most deprived areas of England are more than twice as likely to be obese than those living in the least deprived areas, a national study has found.
The UK Government’s National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for the 2019/20 school year covers 890,608 children in Reception (aged 4-5) and Year 6 (aged 10-11) in mainstream state-maintained schools.
Findings show that 13.3% of Reception children living in the most deprived areas were obese compared to 6% of those living in the least deprived areas.
The study also showed 27.5% of Year 6 children living in the most deprived areas were obese compared to 11.9% of those living in the least deprived areas.
The report contains analyses of Body Mass Index (BMI) classification rates by age, sex and ethnicity as well as geographic analyses.
It found that in Reception, obesity prevalence has increased from 9.7% in 2018-19 to 9.9% in 2019-20, while in Year 6 obesity prevalence has increased from 20.2% in 2018-19 to 21.0% in 2019-20.
Boys have a higher obesity prevalence than girls for both age groups.
In Reception, 10.1% of boys were obese compared to 9.7% of girls, and in Year 6, 23.6% of boys were obese compared to 18.4% of girls.
The number of children measured as part of the programme was 26% lower than the 1,198,261 children who were measured in 2018/19.
Sidonie Sakula-Barry, the World Cancer Research Fund’s health promotion manager, said: “Every year this data on children’s weight is released, and every year childhood overweight and obesity has increased.
“This trend will not change unless our commitment to ending child obesity is driven by action from Government, food industry, and the public to make healthier food affordable and accessible to all – it’s not a coincidence that obesity rates are twice as high in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived.
“Until we do that, obesity will remain high, increasing our children’s risk of cancer in adulthood, and obesity prevalence will remain highest among children living in the most deprived areas.”
Caroline Cerny, alliance lead at Obesity Health Alliance, said: “These results are not good news for child health.”
She added: “In a year when public health has been propelled to the forefront of politics, we now need action on child health – not just words.
“Taking junk food out of the spotlight through restrictions on marketing and promotions – including the long overdue 9pm watershed on junk food adverts – should be the first step.
“The sooner action is taken, the sooner we can give all children the chance to grow up healthy.”