1 in 3 primary school children obese

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Nearly one in three children in Year 6 of primary school is overweight or obese, according to a report out from The NHS Information Centre, UK.

In one of the biggest studies of its kind to be carried out anywhere in the world, the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measured the weight of children in reception class (typically aged four to five years) and Year 6 (aged ten to 11 years) in primary schools in England.

It found that:

– almost one in four children measured in reception year were overweight or obese
– in year 6, this rate was nearly one in three
– boys were significantly more likely to be obese than girls in both age groups
– obesity levels were highest in urban and deprived areas.

The NCMP was established in 2005 as part of government’s strategy to tackle the continuing rise in excess weight in children. In 2006/07, it included valid measurements for 876,416 children. This represents an 80 per cent participation rate, compared to 48 per cent in 2005/06.

Because of the low response in 2005/06, it has not been possible to compare the results between the two years. However, year-on-year analysis should be possible in the future when participation rates have stabilised and changes in prevalence due to changes in participation rates can be discounted.

The NHS Information Centre co-ordinated the collection and analysis of data, using data supplied locally by primary care trusts with the co-operation of local schools.

The NHS Information Centre’s chief executive Tim Straughan said: “The study shows the extent of the obesity problem facing an entire generation of our children. “It is of huge concern that one in three children in Year 6 is overweight or obese. It is even more worrying since the figures presented in our report are, if anything, likely to be an under-estimate. This is because participation in the programme is voluntary and overweight or obese children may be more likely not to take part.

“The study draws on information gathered through one of the biggest programmes of its type anywhere in the world and provides comprehensive data on childhood obesity at local level.

“The report is an excellent basis for analysing, interpreting and tracking childhood obesity in years to come. It supports frontline staff in their efforts to increase the numbers of children with a healthy weight by highlighting the extent to which obesity is a problem and by identifying the social groups and geographical areas which are most likely to be affected.”

Source: Information Centre, UK

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