Westminster child obesity second highest in London

New data released today shows a third of Westminster children are overweight or obese, putting child obesity levels at the second highest in London.

School nurses weighed and measured more than 90 per cent of pupils in both Reception (five -six year olds)  and Year Six (9-10 year olds) in 39 out of 40 Westminster primary schools. 

“The high uptake provides the most comprehensive picture of the weight of the borough’s children, “said Dr Margaret Guy, Director of Public Health at Westminster Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Overall 18 per cent of children were obese, 14 per cent were overweight, with 32 per cent either overweight or obese.   Just over a quarter of children in Reception were overweight or obese, with that number rising to 39 per cent in Year Six.

“More than a quarter of children start primary school either overweight or obese, indicating the importance of working in early years settings to ensure parents understand the importance of a healthy weight.  We will shortly begin working with the schools with the highest levels of obesity, “said Dr Guy.

Furthermore, the data shows the proportion of children who are obese increases significantly during primary school, pointing to the importance of targeted physical activity and healthy eating programmes to halt the rise in childhood obesity."

The data suggests that while boys and girls are broadly similar in levels of obesity when they enter school, a substantially higher proportion of boys are obese in Year Six, compared to girls.

“Although the reason for the increase in obesity in boys during primary school is not known, it is possible that it could be due a more sedentary lifestyle related to playing video games and television viewing," said Dr Guy.

Westminster PCT already has a number of initiatives/programmes underway (see list below) to try to halt the rise in childhood obesity in Westminster.  The PCT's new Obesity Strategy 2006-2009 aims to halt the rise in the levels of obesity in children by 2010 by targeting resources in areas of highest need such as Queen's Park, Church St and Churchill Wards.  In these areas there are high proportions of residents from communities which are more prone to diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related illnesses, such as South-East Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities.

For more information please contact Westminster Primary Care Trust’s Communications Department 020 7150 8243

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Note to editors:

  1. The Department of Health asked PCTs earlier this year to collect data on all children in Reception and Year Six in the academic year 2005/6  and submit the data by September 2006.  The data is contained on the National Childhood Obesity Database, published by the Department of Health today.
  2. The cost of treating adult obesity and associated conditions in Westminster is estimated at £8.5 - £9.5m per year. No similar figure is available for treating childhood obesity and associated conditions.
  3. Southwark PCT has the highest child obesity levels in London.

Examples of initiatives already underway to treat childhood obesity

  1. Healthy Schools Programme: Introduced in 1999, 50 per cent of schools are now ‘Healthy Schools’
    Based on the National Healthy Schools Standard, the programme includes full personal, social and health education provided by Community Nurses
    Healthy Schools Grants have been used to publish a healthy eating recipe book (St Marylebone), produce a hanging wall mural entitled ‘What our Healthy Schools Means to Us’ and develop playground activities to promote physical activity and organised play during breaks (St Matthew's).
  2. The New School Meal Contract: Tendered in September 2006 and committed to using the new nutrition based standards.
  3. The Healthy Start Programme: A national programme launched in November 2006.
    Supermarkets have already signed up and eligible residents are able to redeem vouchers for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk and formula.
  4. Kickstart – a family healthy lifestyle project: Successful after-school pilot project initially worked with seven families from Queen's Park to support healthier lifestyles
    Further funding secured to roll out the programme across the Church St ward in early 2007
  5. The Active School Sports Partnership: Involves all schools in the City promoting the benefits of sport and physical activity
    Programme being extended to include an estate-based approach (Healthy Estates)
  6. Nutrition Guidelines: The Nutrition and Dietetics Department is preparing Nutrition Guidelines for all health professionals working with children under the age of five. 
  7. Physical Activity in Schools: A number of projects are underway to encourage increased physical activity in schools including a Schools Active Playground programme, which includes early morning aerobics sessions; Walking and cycling weeks – where children are encouraged to walk or cycle to school; a number of schools take part in the Walk on Wednesday scheme.  Westminster PCT is the only PCT in the country engaging children in the National Step-o-Meter Scheme, currently being delivered by school nurses and community health workers.
  8. Specialist Cardiac Dietitian: The PCT has a specialist cardiac dietitian who works with groups at high risk of heart disease, including our ethnic communities.   She speaks five languages, including Urdu, Hindi, Guajarati and Marathi.  Her service aims to reduce the risk factors and the prevalence of heart disease in Westminster.
  9. Food Co-operatives: The PCT has established Food Co-operatives in Westbourne Park and Queen’s Park to give residents access to low-cost fruit and vegetables and encourage healthy eating.

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