Background Child obesity is an important public health problem. Of particular concern are the considerable inequalities in obesity prevalence between socioeconomic and ethnic groups. The Department of Health’s recently published Call to Action on Obesity makes a commitment to achieving a sustained downward trend in the level of excess weight in children and states that it is vital that action on obesity reduces health inequalities.
Methods This analysis uses data collected by the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP). The NCMP is an annual programme that measures the height and weight of children aged 4–5 years (Reception) and 10–11 years (Year 6) in schools in England. Approximately one million children are measured every year.
The NCMP collects information on ethnicity and place of residence for each child. Five years of good quality data are now available (2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11) and these have been analysed in detail by the National Obesity Observatory to examine how patterns of child obesity prevalence vary by demographic and socioeconomic group.
Results Obesity prevalence among children who live in the most deprived areas of England is approximately twice that of children living in the least deprived areas. NCMP data suggest that health inequalities among boys in Reception and girls in Year 6 are widening. Health inequalities do not seem to be widening or narrowing for girls in Reception or boys in Year 6 but substantial health inequalities do persist among these groups.
When all years of NCMP measurements are considered the Bangladeshi ethnic group seems to have shown the greatest increases over time. Children in the ‘White Other’ ethnic group appear to be experiencing a decrease in obesity prevalence.
Conclusion In order to achieve a reduction in obesity prevalence among children a particular focus on deprived groups may be required. This would help tackle persistent health inequalities. Children from the Bangladeshi ethnic group may benefit from particular attention, given the evidence that obesity prevalence is increasing for these children at a greater rate than for other ethnic groups.
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