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Over 30% of Year 6 schoolchildren from England’s most deprived areas are obese, new NHS data shows

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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More than a third of primary schoolchildren in Year 6 (aged 10 to 11) are living with obesity in the most deprived areas of England, according to recent data from NHS Digital.

The figures show that during 2021-2022, obesity has impacted children disproportionately in the country. 31.3% of year 6 kids from deprived areas are classified as obese, compared to 13.5% from the least deprived regions.

The report also reveals the number of reception-aged children (4 to 5-year-olds) living with obesity in England over the past two years was more than twice as high in the most deprived areas (13.6%) than the least deprived ones (6.2%).

Cases of severe obesity were over four times higher for Year 6 children living in the less affluent areas of the country in comparison to those in wealthier regions, while for reception-aged children in the poorest parts of the country, severe obesity cases were over three times higher than in wealthier areas.

According to the report, the number of children living with obesity in Year 6 and reception was highest in the North East and West Midlands, and lowest in the South East, South West and East of England.

Over a quarter of 10 to 11-year-olds in London were also said to live with obesity. However, the data also shows the city has the highest number of underweight children in England, affecting nearly 2% of reception-aged and Year 6 pupils.

The prevalence of children categorised as obese also varied by local authority. This ranged from 5.4% in Richmond upon Thames to nearly 15% in Sandwell for reception-aged kids, and from 12.4% in Surrey to 34% in Sandwell for Year 6 children.

Urban areas in England saw the highest number of obese children across both age groups, according to the report.

The level of obesity was also highest for black children in both reception (16.2%) and Year 6 (33%) age groups.

Last November, NHS Digital data revealed that childhood obesity had reached the highest levels seen since before the start of the pandemic.

While the most recent data from the research body shows the overall percentage of reception-aged and Year 6 children living with obesity has decreased between 2020/2021 and 2021/2022, the report highlights the percentage is still higher than pre-pandemic levels.

As children continue to develop obesity, earlier this year, a group of 40 health organisations, academic and food groups wrote an open letter calling on the Government to stop delaying the publication of its sugar reduction report.

As a result of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, the Government has also pushed back the implementation of other measures to combat obesity in the country, such as the bans on HFSS advertising and multi-buy deals which won’t become law until January 2024 and October 2023 respectively.

As food prices continue to rise however, some consumers struggle to avoid buying unhealthy foods as they are often cheaper than healthier options. Recent reports have shown that many cannot afford fresh fruit and vegetables and are swapping to cheaper products as a result.

Find out where the future of nutrition is headed at Food Matters Live’s upcoming Inspiring Nutrition event:

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