NHS Digital has presented findings from the Government’s National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for England, 2022/23 school year. It covers children in Reception (aged 4-5 years) and Year 6 (aged 10-11 years) in mainstream state-maintained schools in England. The new data shows that, for children living in the most deprived areas, obesity prevalence was twice as high compared with those living in the least deprived areas.
The OHA Comments:
“All children have a right to grow up healthy, regardless of their circumstances. It is welcome that fewer children are starting primary school living with obesity compared to before the pandemic, but more children are still leaving primary school above a healthy weight than ever before. These new figures show a shocking divide remains between the haves and the have nots, with the number of children above a healthy weight still twice as high in the poorest areas compared to the richest.
“Voters want the healthy choice to be the easy choice and we know what works; financially incentivising companies to put healthier products on the shelves, through measures such as the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, and stopping children being bombarded with manipulative advertising. If government brings in these plans, it will have a disproportional benefit on those struggling to get by; freeing from the harm caused by unhealthy food and drink.
“Gathering data for use at a population level is vital to identify the scale of an issue and an appropriate response. The invaluable data gained from the National Child Measurement Programme is being used to design ways of tackling the root causes of diet-related ill health, such as the cheap, unhealthy, heavily processed food that is advertised to children day in, day out.”
This year’s data shows:
- The prevalence of obesity in Reception children decreased from 10.1% in 2021/22 to 9.2% in 2022/23.
- The prevalence of obesity in Year 6 children decreased from 23.4% in 2021/22 to 22.7% in 2022/23, which is still higher than pre-pandemic levels.
- For children living in the most deprived areas, obesity prevalence was twice as high compared with those living in the least deprived areas.
- For Reception children living in the most deprived areas the prevalence of obesity was 12.4%, compared with 5.8% of those living in the least deprived areas.
- For children in Year 6 living in the most deprived areas, the prevalence of obesity was 30.2%, compared with 13.1% of those living in the least deprived areas.
- There is a small but notable rise in underweight children, accounting for 1.2% of Reception children and 1.6% of Year 6 children (up from 1.5% in 2021/22).