One in four 4-5 year old children and one in three 10-11 year olds in England are obese or overweight, according to data from the 2007/08 National Child Measurement Program published by the NHS Information Centre. The North East, the West Midlands and London are particular obesity blackspots, and boys are more likely to be obese than girls.
The National Child Measurement Program, established in 2005, weighs and measures school children in Reception (3-4 years old) and Year 6 (10-11 years old) to assess the level of overweight and obesity among kids in England. Almost a million primary school children were measured in the 2007/08 survey, representing 88% of those eligible.
The 2007/08 survey found that 22.6% of 3-4 year old children and 32.6% of 10-11 year olds were overweight or obese. Almost twice as many Year 6 children were obese compared with Reception-age kids (18.3% vs 9.6%), and boys were significantly more likely to be obese than were girls.
The prevalence of obesity among primary school kids in both age groups was significantly higher than the national average in the North East, West Midlands and London. In addition, there was a high prevalence of obesity in Reception-age children in the North West and Year 6 children in Yorkshire and Humber. The South East Coast, South Central, South West and East Midlands regions, on the other hand, had lower-than-average rates of obesity among schoolchildren.
Obesity rates in 2007/08 seem similar to those in the 2006/07 survey (9.9% among Reception-age children and 17.5% in Year 6 children); however, the National Child Measurement Program report cautions that the prevalence of obesity among Year 6 children might have been underestimated by as much as 1.3% in 2006/07 due to children opting out of being measured.
The British Heart Foundation responded to these results by calling for several measures to tackle childhood obesity, including tighter regulation of junk food marketing, consistent and simple food labelling, and more funding to help children get involved in physical activities. Saranjit Sihota, Head of Public Policy at Diabetes UK, likewise called for more action to tackle the epidemic – remarking that “This new data confirms the shocking state of children’s health in this country” – and pointed out that said that there is a clear link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes.