Obesity rising slightly in primary school leavers in England

Child development Children have their weight and height measured at age 4-5 and 10-11

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Obesity has risen slightly in children aged 10 and 11 in England, according to new data.

NHS figures for the past year show 19% of children in their final year of primary school were classed as obese, compared with 18.7% the previous year.

But obesity fell to 9.4% in children going into reception, down from 9.8% the previous year.

The National Child Measurement Programme assesses the height and weight of primary children in England.

Children are measured when they enter reception, and again in their final year of primary school.

The latest figures for 2010/11 include around a million pupils, about 93% of those eligible to take part, according to the report.

The data

  • Obesity is rising slowly in primary school children aged 10 or 11, from 17.5% (2006/2007) to 18.7% (2009/2010) to 19.0% (2010/2011)
  • In children entering reception, obesity is falling slightly, from 9.9% (2006/2007) to 9.8% (2007/2008) to 9.4% (2010/2011)
  • A similar trend is seen in children described as overweight

Commenting on the figures, the chief executive of the NHS Information Centre Tim Straughan said: "More than one million children in England are measured as part of the National Child Measurement Programme, which shows today that while the proportion of four-to-five year olds who are obese has fallen, the opposite has happened among 10 and 11-year-olds.

"This means that while fewer than one in 10 children in Reception Year are obese; for children in their final year of primary school this prevalence is nearly one in every five."

The study also showed that obesity levels were highest in London and lowest in the southern home counties.

Obesity was also more prevalent in deprived areas and urban environments.

'Sad statistic'

Tracy Parker, heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said it was "a really sad statistic".

"It is a shame that even more of our children are finishing primary school obese. It has been shown obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

"And obesity in adults is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

"We've got to realise that children's food and lifestyle choices today could have long term consequences on their future health."

Paul Sacher is a paediatric dietitian at the organisation MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition...Do it!), which provides weight management programmes for families.

He called on the government to do more to protect the health of children.

He added: "With the health consequences of obesity including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer currently costing the NHS £5.1bn per year, the significant financial and human costs associated with obesity has never been clearer."

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