Children in York are more likely to be obese when they leave primary school than they were 10 years ago.
More than one in five Year 6 pupils in the city are classed as obese according to NHS data – with children living in deprived areas far more likely to be unhealthily overweight than those in wealthier neighbourhoods.
The figures show 22 per cent of York Year 6 children were obese in 2020 compared to 14 per cent in 2010.
A Public Health England (PHE) report says there is a strong link between deprivation and obesity among children – and adds that inequalities were widening.
York’s three most deprived areas have the highest rates of obesity among 11-year-olds according to 2019 data:
- Clifton at 22.4 per cent obese
- Westfield at 20.2 per cent
- and Guildhall at 20.4 per cent.
By comparison, the rates of childhood obesity in the city’s wealthiest areas were among the lowest – Copmanthorpe at 8 per cent, Fulford and Heslington at 9.3 per cent and Wheldrake at 8.9 per cent.
Nationally obesity among Year 6 pupils rose to an average of 21 per cent in 2019/20.
Bold measures are needed
PHE said rising levels of obesity for children in deprived areas offset any progress seen in wealthier places.
Dr Alison Tedstone, PHE’s chief nutritionist, said: “Obesity is complex and is influenced by a range of factors, including education, income and the places that people live in, which may in part explain why we are seeing more overweight children in the most deprived areas.”
She added: “Too many children are living with obesity, threatening their future mental and physical health.
“Bold measures are needed to tackle this.”
They include a grant being offered to councils for child weight management services and pressure being placed on the food industry to produce healthier products.
But the NHS Confederation, a membership body for NHS organisations, said further action was urgently needed, including the restricting of fast food shops near schools and opening of more play areas and parks.
The group also wants the VAT rate raised on unhealthy foods.
The figures are taken from the National Child Measurement Programme. Data collection for York in 2019/20 was impacted by Covid-19 with 1,659 fewer Year 6 children measured – 48 per cent less – compared to 2009/10.