14/12/2011 13:31 GMT

Numbers Of Obese Primary School Children Increasing, Says NHS

The percentage of children who are obese in their final year of primary school is rising, with almost one in five now obese.

Data for England from the NHS Information Centre reveals 19% of Year 6 children were obese in 2010/11, up from 18.7% in 2009/10 and 17.5% in 2006/7. Another 14.4% of children were overweight in 2010/11, compared to 14.6% in 2009/10 and 14.2% in 2006/07.

The data was collected as part of the National Child Measurement Programme on more than a million pupils (93% of those eligible).

It found that the proportion of four- and five-year-olds who were obese in 2010/11 fell to 9.4% compared to 9.8% in 2009/10 and 9.9% in 2006/07. Another 13.2% were overweight, compared to 13.3% in 2009/10 and 13% in 2006/07.

Of England's strategic health authority (SHA) regions, London had the highest proportion of obesity for both year groups - 11.1% of those aged four and five were obese alongside 21.9% of those in Year 6 (aged 10 to 11). South Central SHA recorded the lowest prevalence - at 8.1% of those aged four and five and 16.5% of those in Year 6.

Obesity is almost twice as common in deprived areas, the figures also showed. Some 12.1% of four- and five-year-olds in deprived areas are obese compared to 6.9% in more affluent areas.

Among Year 6 children, 23.7% from schools in the most deprived areas are obese compared to 13.8% in the least deprived areas. Obesity is also more common in towns and cities than more rural areas.

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum said: "The primary school reception obesity figure is the best news for many years. It may be showing that parents are finally getting the message that feeding their infants and toddlers good food is having a real effect."

But he said the figures on older children were of great concern.

"Some 82% of obese children go on to become obese adults and doubling the obesity rate in six years of school has to be an indictment of the current healthy schools policy. With today's economic climate, where healthy food is costing more at home, school food standards must not be allowed to fall."