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First drop in obesity prevalence among final year primary school children in England

December 11, 2013: The proportion of Year 6 primary school children who are obese or overweight has fallen for the first time in six years, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures

*Regional figures are available

A third (33.3 per cent) of Year 6 pupils measured for the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) in 2012-13 were obese or overweight, compared to 33.9 per cent in the previous year.

This proportion, which is still higher than in 2006-07, is the first recorded fall for Year 6 in the seven year history of the NCMP, which measures the prevalence of obese, overweight, healthy weight and underweight children in Reception and Year 6.

In Reception, the prevalence of obese and overweight children (which peaked in 2009-10), also fell in 2012-13 compared to the previous year and remains lower than seven years ago.

As today's report includes seven years of results, it also means Year 6 data for 2012-13 will include a large group of children first measured in Reception during 2006-07. However likely changes over time (such as children leaving or joining a school within the six year period) should be considered when interpreting local level data in particular.

The latest results show that in 2012-13:

Reception Year (four to five-year-olds) - relating to 587,700 children measured:

  • The proportion of children who were obese (9.3 per cent) was lower than in 2011-12 (9.5 per cent) and lower than in 2006-07 (9.9 per cent).
  • The proportion of children who were obese or overweight (22.2 per cent) was lower than in 2011-12 (22.6 per cent) and also lower than in 2006-07 (22.9 per cent).
  • The proportion who were underweight (0.88 per cent) was similar to the previous year (0.91 per cent) and down from 1.3 per cent six years ago.

Year 6 (10 to 11-year-olds) - relating to 489,100 children measured:

  • The proportion of children who were obese (18.9 per cent) was lower than in 2011-12 (19.2 per cent) but higher than in 2006-07 (17.5 per cent).
  • The proportion of children who were obese or overweight (33.3 per cent) was lower than in 2011-12 (33.9 per cent) but higher than in 2006-07 (31.6 per cent).
  • The proportion who were underweight (1.33 per cent) was higher than the previous year (1.25 per cent) and down from 1.5 per cent cent in 2006-07.

Other key facts for 2012-13 from the report include:

  • Obesity prevalence amongst children attending schools in the most deprived areas was almost double that of the least deprived (as in previous years): - 12.1 per cent of Reception year children attending schools in the most deprived areas were obese, compared to 6.4 per cent of children attending schools in the least deprived areas.
    - 24.2 per cent of Year 6 children attending schools in the most deprived areas were obese, compared to 13.0 per cent of Year 6 children attending schools in the least deprived areas.
  • Obesity prevalence was significantly higher amongst children living in urban areas than rural areas (as in previous years).
    - 9.6 per cent of Reception children living in urban areas were obese compared to 8.1 per cent and 7.5 per cent living in town areas and village areas respectively.
    - 19.6 per cent of Year 6 children living in urban areas were obese compared to 16.0 per cent and 15.4 per cent living in town areas and village areas respectively.
  • Obesity prevalence varied by region.
    - In Reception; South East Coast Strategic Health Authority (SHA), South Central SHA and East of England SHA had the lowest obesity prevalence (at 7.9 per cent, 8.0 per cent and 8.1 per cent respectively).
    - In Year 6, South East Coast SHA, South Central SHA and South West SHA had the lowest obesity prevalence (15.8 per cent, 16.1 per cent and 16.6 per cent respectively).
    - London SHA reported the highest obesity prevalence for both year groups at 10.8 per cent for Reception and 22.4 per cent for Year 6.

HSCIC Chair Kingsley Manning said: "These figures provide clear insight into the weight of the next generation on both a national and local scale.

"The first drop in obesity prevalence among Year Six stands out, although we will need to see what the numbers say in future years to determine if this is the start of a decline or more of a blip.

"Today's figures reflect an element of the health of our nation's children and today's report isn't just of interest to people that make health policy, it will be of note to many parents in England."

Read the full report at: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/ncmp1213

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 220 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.
  2. Established in 2005, the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for England weighs and measures the height of children in Reception (typically aged four to five years) and Year 6 (aged 10 to 11 years) and enables detailed analysis of prevalence and trends in child overweight and obesity levels. The data are key to improving understanding of overweight and obesity in children. They are used at a national level to inform policy and locally to inform the planning and commissioning of services. The NCMP also provides local areas with an opportunity to raise public awareness of child obesity and to assist families to make healthy lifestyle changes through provision of a child's result to their parents. Central collation and analysis of the NCMP data has been coordinated by the HSCIC since 2006/07. Until April 2013 Data were supplied locally by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) with the support and co-operation of schools, in line with guidance from the Department of Health Obesity Team. On 1 April 2013, responsibility for NCMP transferred from the Department of Health to Public Health England, and from Primary Care Trusts to Local Authorities.
  3. Prevalence rates are calculated using the age and sex-specific UK National body mass index (BMI) centile classification. A large representative sample of 37,700 children was constructed by combining data from 17 separate surveys. The sample was rebased to 1990 levels and the data were then used to express BMI as a centile based on the BMI distribution, adjusted for skewness, age and sex using Cole's LMS method - Growth monitoring with the British 1990 growth reference. Cole Arch Dis Child.1997; 76: 47-49:
    • 'underweight' is defined as less than or equal to the 2nd centile;
    • 'overweight' is defined as greater than or equal to the 85th centile but less than the 95th centile;
    • 'obese' is defined as greater or equal to the 95th centile;
    • 'overweight and obese combined' is defined as greater than or equal to the 85th centile.
  4. To investigate the relationship between deprivation, as measured by the 2010 Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), and the prevalence of underweight, overweight and obese Reception and Year 6 children, records have been placed into one of ten equal sized groups (deciles) based on the IMD score of the child's school location. The prevalence of underweight, overweight and obese children within each group (where 1 is the least deprived and 10 is the most deprived) have then been calculated. The prevalence figures by IMD decile have been derived on the basis of the school postcode in order to make the results comparable with those of previous years.
  5. The information presented on urban/rural areas is based on the child's home postcode and uses ONS classification grouped into three categories; 'Village, hamlet and isolated dwellings', 'Town and fringe' and 'urban'. Further details are available at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/geography/products/area-classifications/rural-urban-definition-and-la/rural-and-urban-statistics-guidance-notes.pdf
  6. A confidence interval gives an indication of the likely error around an estimate that has been calculated from measurements based on a sample of the population. It indicates the range within which the true value for the population as a whole can be expected to lie, taking natural random variation into account. The comparisons that feature in this report have all been tested at a 95% significance level. Both comparisons of prevalence figures relating to groups within the 2012/13 dataset, and comparisons with prevalence figures of earlier years, are described as being different where the difference was determined to be statistically significant at a 95% significance level. Where there was no significant difference between two proportions, the term 'similar' has been used.
  7. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 100.
  8. For media enquiries please contact media@hscic.gov.uk or 0845 257 6990.
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