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Childhood obesity in Manchester area increased this year, new study finds

New research has highlighted a large rise in childhood obesity in children in England, including in the North West.

The data is compiled by National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), a group which measures the height and weight of over one-million children in Reception (age 4-5 years) and Year 6 (age 10-11 years) each year in primary schools in England.

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In the North West, the prevalence of children in Reception being obese was 15.1% in 2020/21, this figure was 10.8% in 2019/20.

For Year 6 students, there was a rise from 22.8% in 2019/20 to 25.8% in 2020/21.

On a national scale, the results show that there has been a 4% increase in the number of children in Reception who are obese from 2019/20 (10%) to 2020/21 (14%).

In Year 6 pupils, the figure has risen from 21% in 2019/20 to 25.5% in 2020/21.

The data also shows that children who live in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to be obese than children in the least deprived areas.

Primary school children enjoying a meal

Boys were found to have had a higher prevalence to obesity than girls in both age groups analysed.

According to the results, 14.8% of boys in Reception were obese compared to 14.1% of girls

In Year 6, 29.2% of boys were obese compared to 21.7% of girls.

Commenting on the figures, which are the highest annual rise since the NCMP began in 2006, Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “This sharp increase in obesity levels across childhood is alarming.

“While lockdown may have been a key factor, we mustn’t assume that this year’s results are an aberration since there may be other factors, including mental health difficulties, which will take time to address.”

Dr Davie believes more needs to be done to tackle poverty, which he sees as a factor in the rise of childhood obesity.

He added: “One factor we must focus on is poverty. Every year we see the gap between the most and least deprived children widen.

“Obesity is increasingly a disease of poverty in the UK and any attempts to address this problem therefore need to be focused on these groups and the causes for their increased vulnerability.”