Levels of severe obesity in children aged 10 to 11 years (Year 6) have reached the highest point since records began, figures released by Public Health England (PHE) have found.

Analysis of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) between 2006 to 2007 and 2016 to 2017 details trends in severe obesity for the first time. The programme captures the height and weight of over one million children in Reception (aged 4 to 5 years) and Year 6 (aged 10 to 11 years) in school each year.

The findings show that stark health inequalities continue to widen. The prevalence of excess weight, obesity, overweight and severe obesity are higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived, and this is happening at a faster rate in Year 6 than Reception.

Other observations include:

  • An upward trend of excess weight, obesity and severe obesity in Year 6 children
  • A downward trend of excess weight, overweight, obesity and severe obesity in Reception age boys
  • A downward trend of underweight in Reception age boys and girls, and Year 6 girls

The Department of Health and Social Care recently announced the second chapter of its Childhood Obesity Plan to help halve childhood obesity by 2030. Main actions include mandatory calorie labelling on menus; and restrictions on price promotions on foods high in fat, salt or sugar. These measures will go out for consultation later in 2018.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “The rise in severe obesity and widening health inequalities highlight why bold measures are needed to tackle this threat to our children’s health.

"These trends are extremely worrying and have been decades in the making – reversing them will not happen overnight.”

Unhealthy weight in childhood can result in bullying, stigma and low self-esteem. It is also likely to continue into adulthood, increasing the risk of preventable illnesses including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

As part of its work to reduce childhood obesity, PHE is working with the food industry to cut 20% of sugar from everyday products by 2020, and 20% of calories by 2024.

It also helps millions of families to make healthier choices through its Change4Life campaigns – the free Food Scanner app reveals the sugar, fat, salt and calories in popular foods and drinks.