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Proportion of children with a healthy weight comparable to pre-pandemic levels but issues remain

Published: 23 May 2023

The number of children aged 4-5 years who were of a healthy weight is broadly similar to that of pre-pandemic levels, in the six health boards that have submitted data to the 2021-22 Child Measurement Programme published today by Public Health Wales. 

The proportion of children with obesity remains higher in the areas with the greatest deprivation in all six health boards. At Local Authority level the proportion of children having obesity ranged from 9.9 per cent in Monmouthshire to 15.8 per cent in Neath Port Talbot. 

Dr Llion Davies, Consultant in Public Health at Public Health Wales, said:

“I am really pleased that the data collection that underpins the Child Measurement Programme is recovering well following the pandemic, and I’d like to thank the school nursing teams for their hard work, as well as the teachers who help the sessions run smoothly. 

“However, data collection was still disrupted during the 2021-22 academic year and data were only available for six Health Board regions, so the data presented in the report should not be extrapolated to provide figures for the whole of Wales.” 

Dr Julie Bishop, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health Wales, added:

“This year’s Child Measurement Programme report shows some interesting findings in terms of the change from last year’s report and the potential impact of the Covid pandemic on children’s diet-related health.  

“In the two health board areas which submitted data last year there was a steep increase in the proportion of children with obesity, but this year’s numbers show that it has returned to similar levels to before the pandemic, suggesting that any impact appears temporary at a population level.” 

With childhood obesity remaining an ongoing issue, Public Health Wales’ Every Child website offers parents and carers a wealth of information to ensure their children have the best start in life. 

Based around ’10 Steps to a Healthy Weight’, the site gives parents practical and useful tips about how to ensure their child gets enough fruit and vegetables, spends time playing outdoors, gets enough sleep, and limits screen time. 

Rachel Bath, Consultant in Public Health in Health Improvement for Public Health Wales, said:  

“The Every Child website gives parents really practical tools in order to help them give their children the best possible start. 

“We know that parents want to do the right thing for their children, but we are also aware that there are many pressures that they face – whether it’s from the rising cost of living, having limited time to spend with their children, and also trying to come up with ideas for free and low-cost activities to do together. 

“The Every Child website is packed full of useful ideas that will really help parents and carers to enjoy healthy activities with their children.   

“Being a healthy weight enables children to grow and play better, sleep better and have greater focus. Prevention is definitely better than cure – introducing and adopting healthy behaviours, as a family, from the start of a child’s life will give them lasting benefits.    

“The rising cost of living is making it even harder for parents and carers to make healthy choices. We encourage people to check whether they are eligible for the Healthy Start scheme which helps some families to afford to buy fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods until their child is four years old.” 

Dr Bishop added:

“We also know that the factors that contribute to excessive weight gain in children are complex and we are influenced and driven by the environment around us, the culture we live in, and our ability to make changes. Public Health Wales remains committed to working with Welsh Government in driving forward the range of solutions outlined in the Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales strategy to help all children to be healthy now and in the future.” 

The report can be downloaded from here.