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Obesity rates drop among primary school children in England

New statistics have shown a decrease in obesity among primary school aged children.

The National Child Measurement Programme, England, 2022/23 report shows a continuation in the downward trend of child obesity since 2020/21 pandemic levels. Since the pandemic, obesity in children between four and five-years-old has fallen by 5.2% and by 2.8% in year 6 children.

The NCMP, overseen by the Office of Health Improvements and Disparities, measures the height and weight of children in reception and year 6 to assess obesity levels in children within primary schools. Started in 2006, it now has 17 years’ worth of data on child obesity. During the pandemic, it found that child obesity reached the highest in the since the NCMP began, with obesity in year six students jumping from 21% in 2019/20 to 25.5% in 2020/21. For reception children, obesity rates this year have reached pre-pandemic levels. However, despite decreasing year on year since the pandemic, obesity in year 6 children (10–11-year-olds) remains above pre-pandemic levels.

The statistics noted some disparities within the data. The most deprived areas of the country had double the amount of reception aged children with obesity than the least deprived. These levels were four times higher for year six children in the most deprived areas versus the least deprived areas. The stats also showed that most children living with obesity were in the North East of England (25.8% of year six children) and, in terms of ethnicity, the proportion of children living with obesity was highest for Black children in both reception and year 6.

There is some controversy with data such as this, particularly because of the use of Body Mass Index. BMI has been criticised for being less reliable when used in children, as it doesn’t take muscle mass or level of development into consideration, both of which influence weight. It also doesn’t take into consideration underlying health conditions like diabetes. However, the statistics do show that the downward trend in obesity post-covid has continued.