With the media constantly maintaining a focus on childhood obesity levels throughout England offering a one-sided view, we’ve decided to delve deep into obesity rates across England ourselves, with the goal of creating a balanced overview of this epidemic. In Part 4 of our ten part series, we’re exploring London.

All information featured has been collected from the National Child Measurement Programme and other government-supported bodies.

Reception Children in London

We began by taking a look into reception children in London and trying to determine whether there is a difference between the weight ranges of boys and girls. Our findings are presented in the graph below.

From this graph, we can see that there is a 2.5% difference between the percentage of healthy weight boys and healthy weight girls, with boys having the lower amount. Furthermore, although there is only a 0.3% difference in overweight Reception boys and girls, there is a 1.3% difference between the girls and the boys that are obese or severely obese. At this stage, there are more boys in the obese or severely obese category than girls.

London Reception Children Comparison

In 2018, the National Child Measurement Programme found that 9.5% of all reception children in London is obese or severely obese – almost 1 in 10. Although a shocking result, how does this compare to previous results?

We’ve compared 2018 data with 2015 data to help us determine whether or not childhood obesity in London has improved in the last 3 years, or whether it’s gotten worse.

The percentage of overweight Reception children has stayed the same at 12.8%. However, the percentage of healthy weight Reception children has decreased by 0.3% from 76.9% to 76.6%. This means that, overall, aside from a slight increase the number of obese or severely obese children, the weight of Reception children have neither increased nor decreased in the last 3 years.

Year 6 Boys and Girls in London

As we’ve found when looking at all other areas in England, as well as England as a whole, the percentage of Year 6 students that are obese or severely obese is significantly higher than those in Reception. According to 2016/2017 data provided by the National Child Measurement Programme, roughly 26 out of 100 Year 6 boys, and 21 out of every 100 Year 6 girls are obese or severely obese in London. That’s more than more than twice the amount of obese and severely obese children in Reception.

Below, we’ve taken a deeper look into the difference between the two sexes, starting with the boys.

42 out of every 100 boys in London in Year 6 are underweight, overweight, obese, or severely obese. Due to this, only 58 out of every 100 are in the healthy weight range. At the rate Year 6 obesity is increasing in London, we wouldn’t be surprised if 50% of Year 6 boys are overweight, obese, or severely obese within the next 5 years.

How does this compare to the weight ranges of girls in Year 6? Take a look at the chart we’ve created below to find out.

Data found that 62 out of every 100 Year 6 girls in London are in the healthy weight range; a number that’s slightly higher than that of Year 6 boys. However, this means that roughly 38 out of every 100 are underweight, overweight, obese, or severely obese.

Out of every 100 Year 6 girls in London, 2 are underweight, 15 are overweight, and 21 are obese or severely obese – that’s just over 20% of all Year 6 girls in London.

London Year 6 Children Comparison

Due to the fact that we’re trying to put together a balanced overview of childhood obesity in England by region, and we want to determine whether childhood obesity levels are in fact improving or getting worse, we’ve decided to compare data from 2017/2018 with 2015/2016.

According to the most recent data from the National Child Measurement Programme, 1 in 5 Year 6 children in London are obese or severely obese – 20.1%. This is an increase of 0.3% on the 19.8% recorded in 2015/2016.

These results show that childhood obesity in London hasn’t shown any improvement over the last three years. Although the number of overweight children has declined fractionally by 0.1% from 14.3% to 14.2%, the percentage of obese and severely obese children has increased. Furthermore, the percentage of Year 6 children in London that fall into the healthy weight bracket has also decreased from 64.5% to 64.2%.

This demonstrates that, even though the government and local authorities are trying to implement strategies to reduce childhood obesity, more needs to be done to ensure a higher percentage of both Reception and Year 6 children stay in the healthy weight range.

So, which areas in London have the best and worst childhood obesity prevalence? Let’s find out.

Best and Worst Areas for Childhood Obesity in London

Unlike part 2 and part 3 of this series when the best and worst areas for obese children have been the same for both Year 6 and Reception, when looking at the best and worst areas for childhood obesity in London, both Reception and Year 6 have different results.

When we begin looking at the best and worst areas for Reception obesity, we can see that Kingston upon Thames has the lowest percentage of Reception children that are obese or severely obese, with 4.9%. In contrast, Brent has the highest prevalence of Reception obesity with 14.8% – a 9.9% increase.

However, when analysing the areas with the highest and lowest prevalence of Year 6 obesity in London, we found that Richmond upon Thames had the lowest percentage of obese and severely obese children, and Barking and Dagenham had the highest.

In total, 12.3% of Year 6 children in Richmond upon Thames are obese or severely obese, which skyrockets to 30% in Barking and Dagenham. That’s a whopping 17.7% increase. Shockingly, this means that in Barking and Dagenham, almost 1 in 3 Year 6 age children are obese or severely obese – 1 in 3.

Why is this the case?

In Kingston upon Thames, the area with the lowest rates of Reception obesity, 78.5% of residents are economically active. This is a 0.7% increase on the percentage of residents that are economically active in Brent: 77.8%. Although this is a difference of less than 1%, when taking a look at the average salaries in both Kingston upon Thames and Brent, we begin to see where the issue arises.

The average gross weekly wage in Kingston upon Thames is £736.90, where as in Brent, it’s £575.50 – a whopping £161.40 per week difference. Furthermore, there are more takeaways per 1000 residents in Brent than there are in Kingston upon Thames with 1.15 takeaways per 1000 residents.

Richmond upon Thames has the lowest prevalence of Year 6 obesity, and 79.3% of the population are economically active. This differs from that of Barking and Dagenham which has the highest prevalence of Year 6 obesity, and only 73.5% are economically active. That’s a 5.8% difference,.

Additionally, in Richmond upon Thames, ££611.50 is the average gross weekly wage, where as in Barking and Dagenham, it’s £571.50. That’s a difference of £40 each week. Also, per every 1000 residents, Richmond upon Thames has only 0.88 takeaways, compared to Barking and Dagenham which has 1.18.

These findings demonstrate that a lower weekly wage combined with higher amount of takeaways per 1000 residents could mean parents on lower incomes are feeding their children higher calorie takeaway foods. In areas with a higher weekly wage, obesity levels are lower which suggests that parents in these areas are feeding their children more balanced, nutritional meals.