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Unhealthy weight at pre-school age

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In 2015, 28% of children aged 2 to 15 years were either overweight (14%) or obese (14%)1, with overweight and obesity found to be more prevalent in boys than girls. Whilst specific prevalence of unhealthy weight in the 2-4 year age group is unknown, the fact that 1 in 5 children in England start school overweight or obese2 (and a further 1% of children start school underweight) suggests weight issues often begin in the pre-school years.   

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) collects weight and height data from children in England at reception age (5-6 years) and in their last year of primary school (10-11 years).  The NCMP data for the 2015/2016 school year shows that at reception age the prevalence of obesity, overweight and underweight is higher in boys than girls.

The latest NCMP findings can be found on the NHS Digital website.

NCMP data (2015/2016) for reception-aged children in Blackburn with Darwen indicates that underweight is higher than the national average (1.8% compared with a national average of 1%), whilst levels of overweight is slightly lower than the national average (11.3% vs 12.8%), and levels of obesity almost the same (9.4% vs 9.3%)               

It is important to be aware that gender differences in child weight have been found. The NCMP data for the whole of England indicates that in reception the prevalence of obesity, overweight and underweight is higher in boys than girls.

At risk groups


NCMP data shows that where a child lives can have an impact on their weight, with 2015/2016 data indicating that the North East, West Midlands and London have the highest levels of obesity at reception age. These regions are closely followed by the North West. London has been found to have the highest levels of underweight children at reception age.


Children from lower socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds have a greater risk of unhealthy weight than those from higher SES groups. In the UK, at reception age, the gap between obesity ranged from 12.5% for children living in the most deprived areas compared to 5.5% for children in the least deprived areas2. Underweight prevalence also decreases as deprivation decreases.


The 2015/2016 National NCMP data showed that obesity was highest in Black and Black British children (15.2%) and lowest for Chinese (7.3%) children of reception age. Asian and Asian British children were found to have the highest levels of underweight (3.5%). The impact of ethnicity on child weight is further explored in the assessing child weight and culture module.