Cultural Prevalence

Cultural prevalence

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The prevalence of unhealthy weight, both over and underweight, can differ between children of different ethnicities.

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) data 2015/16 showed the prevalence of under and overweight in children of reception age. The highest prevalence of overweight and obesity at reception age is found in black and black British children (15.2%) and the lowest is found in Chinese children (7.3%). In terms of underweight, the highest levels are found in Asian and Asian British children (3.5%) and the lowest in white children (0.6%). 

The 20111 census provides information on the ethnic and religious make up of Blackburn with Darwen. In 2011, Blackburn with Darwen had about 147,000 residents. White residents make up approximately 70% of the borough’s population, with 30% of the population coming from BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) populations. Of the BME population, 13.4% were described as Indian (over 19,000 people) and 12.1% as Pakistan (over 17,000 people). This equates to the eleventh highest Indian and sixth highest Pakistani population of any local authority in England.

In terms of religion, 52.6% (over 77,000) of the population identified as Christian, and 27% identified as Muslim (over 39,000). This means Blackburn with Darwen have the third highest Muslim population in England (after Tower Hamlets and Newham, both in London). 

There are some points to take into account when considering ethnic differences in obesity. Obesity is measured by Body Mass Index (BMI) (see module on identifying unhealthy weight for a further explanation), which is a measure of weight for height. It has been shown that people of Asian origin accumulate a higher level of body fat at the same BMI as white people, which means that the BMI cut-offs for underweight and overweight might be misleading for these populations. Furthermore, adults of Asian origin (particularly South Asian) are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease than white populations of the same BMI2. Therefore, some experts have suggested the BMI cut-off for obesity should be lower for Asian populations.



2Wahi, G., & Anand, S. S. (2013). Race/ethnicity, obesity, and related cardio-metabolic risk factors: a life-course perspective. Current cardiovascular risk reports, 7(5), 326.