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Child Measurement Programme shows increase in numbers of children with obesity

Published: 18 May 2022

The number of 4-5 years old children with obesity has increased in two different health board areas since 2018-19, according to the Child Measurement Programme.

Because of the limitations posed by pandemic restrictions and redeployment of healthcare staff, it was only possible to get sufficient data for children in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) and Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB) areas for the school year 2020-21.  Due to the differences in population and the limitations on data collection, these numbers should not be assumed to reflect the situation across Wales.

Data presented showed that the rate of children with obesity has risen significantly in the two health board areas. In the SBUHB area, 17.6 per cent of children were categorised as having obesity in 2020-21, which was a significant increase on the proportion of 13 per cent reported in 2018-19. Similarly, in the ABUHB area, the proportion of children categorised as having obesity rose from 11.8 per cent in 2018-19 to 18.3 per cent.

There was also a significant decline in both health board areas in the number of children of a healthy weight. In the SBUHB area, the proportion of children of a healthy weight declined from 72.2 per cent in 2018-19, to 65.5 per cent in 2020-21.  In the ABUHB area, the proportion declined from 73.9 per cent to 66.7 per cent in the same period.

Significant differences between those children in the least deprived and most deprived areas were reported across both health boards. In the SBUHB area, 20.7 per cent of children in the most deprived areas experienced obesity, compared to 12.8 per cent in the least deprived areas.  Similarly, in the ABUHB area, 21.1 per cent of children in the most deprived areas have obesity, compared to 13.2 per cent in least deprived areas.

Dr Llion Davies, Public Health Consultant at Public Health Wales, said:

“This report only gives a partial picture of childhood obesity, with data only available from two of the seven Health Boards in Wales.

“Within those two geographical areas there has been a significant increase in the number of 4-5 years old children with obesity. There has also been a persistent gap between those in the most deprived and least deprived areas.

“The Child Measurement Programme will continue to monitor the measurements of reception class children in Wales, with data collection resuming across all LHB regions from September 2022”.

Despite only having sufficient data to report the picture for two health board areas in Wales, parents across the country can find information to maintain a healthy weight for their children at Public Health Wales’ Every Child Wales website.

The website is based around ’10 Steps to a Healthy Weight’, and was developed by experts in partnership with parents, so it is designed to provide the practical support that is vital for the first years of a child’s life.

The website includes information for the different stages of a child’s life, from before the baby is born, through the first months right up to pre-school age.
For babies, there’s support for parents and families about breastfeeding and moving to solid foods, for older children there is advice and ideas about outdoor play, limiting screen time and giving healthy snacks. 

Ilona Johnson, Consultant in Public Health said “whether a child is a healthy weight is influenced by a range of factors which start before birth and particularly in the first year of life.  Public Health Wales’ Every Child Wales website explains the things that have the biggest impact, the ’10 Steps to a Healthy Weight’, and provides practical advice for parents to help them give their child the best start in life.  We recognise that the cost of living is making it more difficult for families to make ends meet, it is really important that those parents who are eligible for Healthy Start vouchers take these up as they can help meeting food costs.”

Read the full report via the link below: