RCPCH responds to sharp rise in rates of obesity in young children

NHS Digital today announced new figures showing a significant increase in obesity rates among primary-aged children. Obesity rates in both reception-aged and year 6 schoolchildren increased by around 4.5 percentage points between 2019-20 and 2020-21.

The National Child Measurement Programme 2020-21 report for England, published today, found obesity prevalence among four and five-year-olds in reception classes rose from 9.9% in 2019-20 to 14.4% in 2020-21.

Commenting on the figures – the highest annual rise since the Programme began – 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.

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.