One in three children overweight or obese when leaving primary school

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Government has been urged to act immediately in response to the “alarming” number of children who are overweight or obese when leaving primary school in England.

“There’s an urgent need for the Government to tackle obesity, starting with junk food marketing which we know influences what food children prefer" - Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK

Headline statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s National Child Measurement Programme 2014-15 show more than a fifth of the children fall into this category in reception, increasing their likelihood of becoming obese adults. 
 
Being overweight as an adult could cause 10 types of cancer, as well as a range of other health conditions.

The measurements of more than 1.1 million state primary school children in England were taken during the 2014/15 school year. Analysis of reception (ages 4-5) and year 6 (10-11) pupils was then used to determine the number of those classed ‘underweight’, ‘healthy weight’, ‘overweight’, ‘obese’ or ‘overweight and obese’.

Among the findings were that almost a third (33.2 per cent) of year 6 pupils were overweight or obese ahead of leaving primary education. 
 
And children living in the most deprived areas were twice as likely to be obese as those from the most affluent areas, including a quarter of year 6 children.

The report found that the gap in obesity rates between children from the richest and poorest areas has also widened since 2007/08. The gap for reception children is now 5.5 percentage points, compared to 4.6 percentage points in 2007/08 
 
And, for those in year 6, the deprivation gap has risen from 8.9 percentage points in 2007/08 to 12 percentage points in 2014/15. 
 
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “These numbers are alarming. It’s shocking to see that more than one in five children are overweight or obese when they enter primary school, and this increases to one in three when they leave. 
 
“Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, and being overweight could cause 10 types of cancer. 
 
“There’s an urgent need for the Government to tackle obesity, starting with junk food marketing which we know influences what food children prefer. To prevent the next generation becoming obese the Government must act immediately to ban junk food ads before 9pm as part of a comprehensive children’s obesity strategy to help prevent thousands of cancer cases.”

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