We’re officially halfway through our childhood obesity series, and so far, we’ve explored England as a whole, along with the East Midlands, East England, and London. So far, we’ve concluded that lower income areas usually have more takeaways per 1000 residents, which coincides with higher obesity rates in children. In comparison, higher income areas have fewer takeaways per 1000 residents, and more children are usually in the healthy weight bracket.

In Part 5 of our series, we’ll be exploring childhood obesity in the North East to determine if this area follows the same suit as the previous areas we’ve explored. All the data we’ve used is collected from the National Child Measurement Programme, and we’ve filtered through it to find out which areas in the North East have the highest and lowest prevalence of Reception and Year 6 obesity.

Reception Children in the North East

We began by taking a look at Reception children in East England. As you can see from our bar chart down below, 74.2% of Reception boys, and 75.6% of Reception girls are in the healthy weight range. That’s a slight difference of 1.4%, with girls holding the higher percentage.

The percentages of overweight, obese, and severely obese Reception boys and Reception girls are extremely similar. 14.01% of boys are in the overweight category, compared to 13.5% of girls. There’s only a 0.4% difference in the percentage of boys and girls that are obese and severely obese, with 10.9% of boys, and 10.5% of girls.

Shockingly, this means that 1 in 10 Reception children, aged just 4-5, in the North East is obese or severely obese.

North East Reception Children Comparison

According to 2018 data from the National Child Measurement Programme, 10.9% of all Reception children in the North East fall into the obese or severely obese category. That’s a whopping 1 in every 10 children. Although shocking, how does this result compare to data collected in 2015? Has there been an improvement? Let’s find out below.

As you can see from the bar chart above, childhood obesity rates in the North East have actually gotten worse in the the last 3 years. The percentage of obese and severely obese children has increased by 0.2%, and the percentage of overweight children has gone from 13.9% to 14.1%.

Due to this, over one quarter of all Reception children in the North East are underweight, overweight, obese, or severely obese – an incredible 1 in 4. Furthermore, the percentage of children in the healthy weight range has decreased by 0.4%. If this trend continues for a further 3 years, by 2021, 11.1% will be obese or severely obese, 14.3% will be overweight, and just 74% – less than 3 quarters, will be of a healthy weight.

Year 6 Boys and Girls in England

Following the same path of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, there’s a significant difference in the percentages of healthy weight, overweight, obese, and severely obese Reception and Year 6 children.

When looking at the data from the National Child Measurement Programme, we discovered that in the North East, approximately on 60 out of every 100 Year 6 boys, and 64 out of every 100 Year 6 girls are of a healthy weight.

Let’s delve deeper into the difference between Year 6 boys and girls, taking a look at boys first.

We can see from this graph that 15 out of every 100 boys are overweight, and 24 out of 100 are obese or severely obese. This means, that with 1 out of every 100 being underweight, approximately 40% of all Year 6 boys in the North East are not in the healthy weight bracket. This is an increase on the percentage of obese and severely obese boys compared to Year 6 of around 13%.

Now, let’s take a look at Year 6 girls.

The National Child Measurement Programme found that 64 out over every 100 Year 6 girls are of a healthy weight; slightly more than Year 6 boys. Additionally, 15 out of every 100 girls are in the overweight category, and 20 out of every 100 are obese or severely obese.

This means that out of a class of 100 Year 6 girls in the North East, 36 (which is over one third of the class) don’t fall into the healthy weight category.

North East Year 6 Children Comparison

As we’ve done with Reception children above, we wanted to find out whether these results are an improvement on previous years, which is why we’ve compared 2018 data with data from 2015. Doing this gives us the opportunity to offer a balanced overview of childhood obesity across regions in England, and determine whether the government needs to invest more time and funding into tackling childhood obesity rates in England.

Following suit from Reception children, the prevalence of Year 6 obesity in the North East has also worsened since the year 2015.

22.8% are in the obese or severely obese category which is an increase of 0.4%, and 14.7% are in the overweight category, a 0.1% increase. Furthermore, with only 61.4% being of a healthy weight, this means that 38.6% of all Year 6 children are not in the healthy weight range.

So far throughout this series, we have found that in most regions, childhood obesity levels are continuing to rise. Perhaps this means that the government and local authorities need to put more of a focus on finding the reason that the weight of children increases drastically between Reception and Year 6, in order to effectively tackle it.

Best and Worst Areas for Childhood Obesity in the North East

Similarly to Pat 4 of this series but unlike parts 1, 2, and 3, the best and worst areas for childhood obesity in the North East differ between Reception and Year 6 children. We also found that the differences between the best and worst areas were significantly smaller than differences in other regions. We’ve compiled these findings in a bar chart below.

When taking a look at the areas of the North East with the highest and lowest prevalence of Reception obesity, Darlington has the least amount of obese and severely obese Reception children with 8.8%. In comparison, Middlesbrough has the most amount of obese and severely obese Reception children with 12.9% – an increase of 4.1% on Darlington.

Nonetheless, when it came to us analysing the best and worst areas for obese and severely obese Year 6 children, we discovered that Northumberland had the lowest percentage of obese and severely obese Year 6 students with 20.8%, 12% more than Darlington.

Sunderland has the most amount of obese and severely obese out of the whole of the North East with 25% – a shocking total of 1 in every 4 Year 6 children, and an increase of 12.1% on that of Middlesbrough.

Why is this the case?

In Darlington, the area of the North East with the lowest reception obesity rates, 78% of residents are economically active. This is an 8.7% increase on the percentage of residents that are economically active in Middlesbrough, where the total is 69.3%. This is quite a significant increase compared to other regions we have explored.

The average gross weekly wage in Darlington is £506, compared to that of Middlesbrough in which it’s £480. Even though this is only a £26 difference per week, over the course of a year, that’s a total of £1,352. Moreover, there are more takeaways per 1000 residents in Middlesbrough with 1.47, in comparison to Darlington which has 1.36.

Northumberland has the lowest percentage of obese and severely obese Year 6 students, and 74% of the population are economically active. Unusually, even though Sunderland has the most obese and severely obese pupils, it has a higher percentage of economically active residents with 75.9%.

Additionally, there is only a £5 difference between the average gross weekly pay of residents in Sunderland and Northumberland. This is the smallest difference between gross weekly pays that we’ve found throughout this series so far.

Continuing with the theme of similarities in totals, there is also only a fractional difference in the number of takeaways per 1000 residents, with Northumberland having 1.08, and Sunderland having 1.12. This means that, even though this follows the same trend of poorer areas relying more on takeaways for food, the results in the North East are less drastic than other regions.