The data, which comes from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) over the past 10 years, showed that stark health inequalities were continuing to widen. The report said: “The prevalence of excess weight, obesity, overweight and severe obesity are higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived – this is happening at a faster rate in Year 6 than Reception.”
Other observations from the report included an upward trend of excess weight, obesity and severe obesity in Year 6 children; a downward trend in excess weight, overweight, obesity and severe obesity in Reception age boys; and a downward trend in underweight in Reception age boys and girls, and Year 6 girls.
Childhood Obesity Plan
The Department of Health and Social Care recently announced the second chapter of its Childhood Obesity Plan to help halve childhood obesity by 2030. Key actions from the Government included mandatory calorie labelling on menus; and restrictions on price promotions on foods high in fat, salt or sugar. These measures will go out for consultation later this year.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “The rise in severe obesity and widening health inequalities highlight why bold measures are needed to tackle this threat to our children’s health.
“These trends are extremely worrying and have been decades in the making – reversing them will not happen overnight.”
A spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association said: “This latest information highlights something we already knew – obesity rates in children are far too high and more is needed to halt and reverse that trend.”
‘Upward trend in severe obesity’
Meanwhile, the British Nutrition Foundation added: “The findings published today, showing an upward trend in severe obesity in Year 6, are particularly worrying as we know that this has a negative impact on children’s health both in the short- and the long-term.
“There is no easy way to address excess weight in children, but sugar and calorie reduction in foods and drinks, making healthier choices easier for families and encouraging healthy policies in schools are all things that can contribute to turning the tide of the current obesity epidemic. It’s important to remember that children are growing and developing, so having a balanced diet is key not only for a healthy weight but to provide all the essential nutrients they need to be healthy.”
Earlier this year, PHE teamed with Disney UK for the Change4Life Train Like a Jedi programme, which was designed to boost activity levels of physical activity among children in England. PHE has also made soft drinks the main focus of its latest campaign against child obesity.
Elsewhere, Mondelēz International has unveiled a reduced-sugar Cadbury Dairy Milk as part of a wider sugar reduction drive.