The rate of obesity in primary school children in London doubles between Reception and Year 6. And the capital has the biggest problem of any region in the country with children who are overweight or classified as obese.
The findings come from analysis by Urbs Media of data from the National Child Measurement Programme over the last 9 years. Under this programme children are measured and weighed at the start and the end of primary school. It was set up by the government to help tackle obesity and covers children in all state schools, with around 95% taking part.
The most recent figures are for the 2013-14 school year and show that more than a fifth of children in Year 6 in London are classified as obese. That is more than double the rate for children in reception.
And this is not a recent phenomenon. Data going back to the 2006-07 school year shows a similar doubling in rates of obesity.
The Year 6 children from last year entered the school system in 2007. The data for that year shows that of the 74,235 Reception children measured, 10.8% or 8,017 were classified as obese. In Year 6, 78,642 were measured. Many of the children may be different as families leave and arrive in the capital. But many will be the same. The rate of obesity for the class of 2007 had doubled by age 11.
London’s record looks even grimmer when children who are classified as overweight are added. In London, 38% of 11-year-olds are classified as overweight or obese. The North East and the West Midland have a very similar proportion of overweight 11-year-olds but a slightly lower rate of obese children.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to calculate levels of body fat to indicate whether someone is classified as underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese. For most adults a BMI above 30 indicates obesity. The index levels for each classification vary for children to take account of difference in growth rates at different ages.
The data for London shows a largely capital-wide problem with 7 boroughs (Hackney, Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Barking and Dagenham, Lambeth and Southwark) with more that a quarter of Year 6 pupils classified as obese. Richmond stands out by having a much lower level. It also has a lower level of obese 5-year-olds, just 6%.
London has a better record on adult obesity than other regions of the country but the National Child Measurement Programme data shows a significant problem for youngsters that will lead to serious health issues in later lifer.
Much has been done in the recent year to raise awareness of the need for a good diet and the risks of being overweight. Despite that, the data shows that this has been a consistent problem and it is not going away.