In order to try and gain a further understanding of why childhood obesity in England doesn’t appear to be improving, we decided to look at region specific data. Not only will this highlight which areas in England have the highest percentage of obese children, but also why some areas have a larger prevalence of childhood obesity than others.

In this part of our series, part 2, we’re exploring obesity rates in the East Midlands using data from the National Child Measurement Programme for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

Reception Children in the East Midlands

According to 2016-2017 data, the percentages of overweight and obese reception girls and boys in the East Midlands are extremely similar. As the bar chart below demonstrates, there is only a 1% difference between the amount of reception children that are obese or severely obese, with the higher amount being boys.

There’s also a 0.4% difference between the amount of reception boys and girls that are overweight, and a 1.8% difference in the percentage of boys and girls that are healthy. Overall, in 2017, reception girls in the East Midlands were fractionally healthier than boys of the same age.

East Midlands Reception Children Comparison

As of 2018, 9.9% of all reception children in the East Midlands are obese or severely obese – that’s a whopping 1 in 10 children aged 4-5. This implies that obesity levels drastically increase between reception and Year 6.

However, how does this compare to previous years? To give us a clear overview of obesity levels of reception children, we’ve created this bar chart. It compares reception obesity rates in the East Midlands in 2015/2016 to those of reception children in 2017/2018.

As we can see from the bar chart, obesity levels in reception children in the East Midlands have increased by 0.8% from 9.1% in 2015/2016, to 9.9% in 2017/2018. The percentage of healthy children has also declined from 76.9% to 75.7%, and the number of overweight reception children has increased by 0.7%.

This demonstrates that the work and funding being put into tackling childhood obesity by the government and local authorities is currently proving unsuccessful in the East Midlands and therefore needs to be re-evaluated.

Year Six Boys and Girls in the East Midlands

When looking at the percentage of boys and girls in Year 6 that are overweight, the results differ massively from those of reception children. According to the 2016/17 data from the National Child Measurement Programme, roughly 21 boys out of every 100, and 19 girls out of every 100, are obese or severely obese – almost double the amount of obese and severely obese reception children. Our graphics below offer even more of an insight into the overall health of Year 6 boys and girls living in the East Midlands, and the results are shocking.

Let’s start by taking a look at Year 6 boys.

Not only has the number of obese and severely obese boys doubled in comparison to reception, we can also see a decline in the number of boys in the healthy weight range compared to boys in reception. Only 64 boys out of every 100 are of a healthy weight – a number that is incredibly low. Furthermore, 14 out of every 100 Year 6 boys in the East Midlands are overweight. This means that more than one third of all East Midlands Year 6 boys are overweight, obese, or severely obese: 1 in 3.

Below, we can see how these results differ from Year 6 girls in the East Midlands.

The graphic above shows that 67 year 6 girls out of every 100 are of a healthy weight, 10 less than the number of reception girls in the healthy weight range. It also shows that 14 out of every 100 are overweight. This means that, in total, approximately one third of year 6 girls in the East Midlands are overweight, obese, or severely obese – the same amount as year 6 boys.

East Midlands Year Six Children Comparison

In 2017/2018, the National Child Measurement Programme found that 19.9% of all Year 6 children in the East Midlands are obese or severely obese. Even more shocking than 1 in 10 reception children being obese, this means that 2 in 10 are obese – 1 fifth of all Year Six children. Find out whether this result is an improvement on results from 2015/2016 in our bar chart below.

It’s clear from the bar chart above that childhood obesity levels in the East midlands have not improved over the last 3 years, and have in fact gotten worse. An additional 0.9% of Year 6 children are now obese or severely obese compared to 2015/16, and the number of overweight children has stayed the same. The percentage of healthy weight Year 6 pupils has also decreased by 0.8%, from 65.2%, to 64.4%.

Similarly to reception children, it’s clear that the government and local authorities need to implement a new strategy that tackles the ever-increasing number of Year 6 children in the East Midlands that are overweight, obese, or severely obese.

So, which areas of the East Midlands have the best and worst reception and year 6 obesity rates?

Best and Worst Areas for Childhood Obesity

Rather than looking at childhood obesity rates in the East Midlands as a whole, we decided to delve into which areas of the East Midlands have the highest and lowest prevalence of obesity in children. We’ve demonstrated our findings in the graph below.

From this graph, we can see the stark increase in the percentage of obese and severely obese children in reception compared to year 6.

Rutland has the lowest prevalence of obesity in both reception and year 6 out of the whole of the East Midlands. However, there is still a 10.8% increase in the number of obese and severely obese reception children compared to year 6 which highlights the massive increase in weight in the space of just 6 school years.

In comparison, Nottingham has the highest prevalence of childhood obesity in the East Midlands. 13% of reception children, and 25.3% of year 6 children in Nottingham are obese or severely obese. That’s a 6.9% increase in reception obesity on Rutland’s total of 6.1%, and an 8.4% increase in year 6 obesity on Rutland’s 16.9%. This means that 1 in every 4 year 6 pupils in Nottingham are obese or severely obese.

Why is this the case?

In Nottingham, only 62.4% of residents are economically active. This is 16% less than the national average in England which is 78.4%. In comparison, 82% of Rutland residents are economically active: an increase of 19.6% on Nottingham.

Furthermore, the average gross weekly wage in Rutland is £545, whereas in Nottingham, the average gross weekly wage is £403. That’s a staggering difference of £142 per week.

Studies have shown that across the UK, more calories can be purchased for less money. For example, £1 can buy 1 bunch of bananas, approximately 500kcal, whereas the same £1 could also buy 900kcal of takeaway food instead. This explains why parents in poorer areas of England, such as Nottingham, rely on fast food and takeaways instead of healthy food to feed their children.