Throughout this series so far, we’ve been exploring childhood obesity rates throughout England using national and region specific data collected by the National Child Measurement Programme. In Part 6 of our series, we’re delving into obesity rates in children in the North West.

As with all previous parts of this series, we’re offering a balanced overview into childhood obesity to help you find out whether rates are improving or getting worse in your specific regions. Let’s start by taking a look at the North West.

Reception Children in the North West

We’re starting off Part 6 by delving into obesity rates amongst Reception children in the North West to find out if there is any difference between boys and girls in the overweight and obese and severely obese categories. What we found is presented in the bar chart below.

From the graph, we can see that there is a 1.3% difference in the percentage of boys and girls that are in the healthy weight category, with girls holding the higher percentage. In all other parts of this series, this result has been the same: a lower amount of Reception boys are of a healthy weight.

Additionally, a smaller amount of girls are in the overweight, and obese and severely obese category. In total, 23.5% of Reception girls, and 24.3% of Reception boys fall into the overweight, or obese and severely obese category. Incredibly, this means that almost one quarter of all Reception children in the North West are overweight, obese, or severely obese.

North West Reception Children Comparison

According to the most recent data collected by the National Child Measurement Programme, in 2018, 10.2% of all Reception children in the North West are in the obese and severely obese category – that’s 1 in 10 children.

In order to determine whether this is an improvement on the data collected in previous years, we’ve compared the 2018 findings to the 2015 findings, and the results don’t paint a pretty picture.

Firstly, over the last 3 years, the percentage of obese and severely obese Reception children has increased from 9.8% to 10.2% – an increase of 0.4%. The percentage of overweight children has also fractionally increased by 0.3%. Another point to take note of is the fact that the amount of healthy weight children has declined from 76% to 75.2% – a decline of 0.8% in total.

This is just a snippet of evidence that highlights that the government’s and local authorities efforts to tackle childhood obesity in the North West have so far proved unsuccessful.

Year 6 Boys and Girls in the North West

Now it’s time for us to move on to looking at the weight brackets of Year 6 children in the North West, and seeing how these results compare to those of the reception children.

When analysing the percentage of healthy weight Year 6 students using data from 2016/2017, we can see that approximately 62 out of every 100 Year 6 boys, and 65 out of every 100 girls are in the healthy weight category. This means that 38 boys, and 35 girls out of every 100 are either underweight, overweight, obese, or severely obese.

Out of the 38 boys that aren’t of a healthy weight, roughly 1 in 100 is underweight, 14 fall into the overweight category, and 23 are obese or severely obese: That’s almost one quarter of all Year 6 boys in the North West. This number is more than double the percentage of obese and severely obese Reception boys – a shocking result for only a 5 year age gap.

Now, let’s have a look at Year 6 girls and see how they compare.

Due to the fact that only 65 Year 6 girls in every 100 are healthy, out of the 35 remaining, we’ve found that 1 out of every 100 are in the underweight category; the same amount as Year 6 boys.

Furthermore, we also found that 15 out out of every 100 are overweight, and 19 are obese or severely obese. This means that although a higher percentage of Year 6 girls in the North West are overweight compared to boys, there are actually significantly less girls in the obese and severely obese category in comparison to boys by roughly 4%.

North West Year 6 Children Comparison 

Using data collected by the National Child Measurement Programme in 2018, we’ve determined that just 63.3% of all Year 6 children in the North West are of a healthy weight – a number that’s totally shocking. Even more shocking however, is that this means a whopping 36.7% are either underweight, overweight, obese or severely obese.

However, are these percentages an improvement on previous years? Or has childhood obesity in the North West increased over the last 3 year? We wanted to find out, so we’ve put together a graph below comparing the 2018 results with 2015 results.

The percentage of overweight children has decreased fractionally by 0.1% from 14.6% to 14.5% which is a slight decline considering it’s been 3 years. Nonetheless, the percentage of healthy weight children has decreased by 0.2%, and the number of obese and severely obese children has increased by 0.4% from 20.6% to 21%.

Although it’s good to see that for the most part there has been a slight improvement, we would expect a more significant decline in the amount of overweight, obese and severely obese children. This suggests that perhaps the government and local authorities in the North West need to put more focus on tackling obesity levels in children.

Best and Worst Areas for Childhood Obesity 

Along with looking at results for the North West as a whole, we also wanted to break down the data collected by the National Child Measurement Programme to determine which areas within the North West have the the best and worst prevalence of childhood obesity.

We’ve gathered our findings in a bar chart below, giving you the chance to see how the best and worst areas compare.

Using 2017/2018 data, we’ve discovered that area in the North West with the lowest prevalence of Reception obesity is Cheshire and West Chester with 7.7% of their pupils falling in to the obese or severely obese category. In comparison, Knowsley has the highest prevalence of Reception obesity with 14% – almost double the amount in Cheshire and West Chester.

As we’ve found with other areas, these results differ when it comes to looking at the towns with the highest and lowest obesity rates in Year 6 children.

Cheshire again takes the title of the area with the lowest amount of obese and severely obese Year 6 children with a total of 16.9%. Manchester however, has the most amount of obese and severely obese Year 6 students with an incredible 26.2% – that’s an increase of 9.8% on Cheshire East.

Why is this the case?

In Cheshire and West Chester, the area with the lowest Reception obesity rates in the whole of the the North West, 79.4% of the population are economically active. This is 5.3% higher than the percentage of economically active residents in Knowsley in which it’s 74.1%.  Additionally, the average gross weekly wage in Cheshire and West Chester is £562.20, whereas in Knowsley, it’s £508.40 – £53.80 less each week.

However, with all other areas we’ve researched throughout this series so far, lower income areas have had more takeaways per 1000 residents. In this case, although Knowsley has a higher percentage of obese and severely obese children than Cheshire and West Chester, it actually has less takeaways.

In Cheshire and West Chester, there are 0.9 takeaways for every 1000 residents, compared to Knowsley which has just 0.65. This is the first time this result has been found during our research.

Cheshire East has the lowest prevalence of Year 6 obesity in the North West and 78.4% of the population are economically active. In Manchester, on the other hand, only 73.3% of the population are economically active – 5.1% less than Cheshire East.

Furthermore, the average gross weekly wage in Cheshire East is £588.10, and there are only 1.05 takeaways per 1000 residents. In Manchester, the weekly wage drops to £492.80 and the number of takeaways per 1000 residents increases to 1.76.

These numbers follow the pattern previously discovered throughout this series that demonstrates lower income areas have more takeaways and higher childhood obesity rates. Ultimately, this shows that it’s likely that people living in poorer areas are relying more on takeaways to feed their children.