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Unhealthy weight at pre-school age

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In 2019/2020, 23% of reception-aged children in England were found to be living with overweight or obesity. The fact that 1 in 5 children in England start school with overweight or obesity (and a further 1% of children start school with 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 2019/2020 school year showed that at reception age the prevalence of obesity, overweight and underweight was higher in boys than girls.

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

At risk groups

Region

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.

Deprivation

NCMP data shows that where a child lives can have an impact on their weight. In the 2019/2020 school year children living in the most deprived areas were more than twice as likely to be obese than those living in the least deprived areas.

Ethnicity

The 2019/2020 NCMP data showed that overweight and obesity were highest in Black and Black British children (28.5% of reception children with overweight or obesity) and lowest for Chinese children (14.9% of reception children with overweight or obesity)> 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 Cultural Considerations module.