Only 1.8% of council wards are reducing childhood obesity

A 4 minute insight

Obesity levels in England continue to rise, but a small handful of primary schools are managing to reduce the weight of their pupils. It’s an interesting topic that we’ve been exploring as although the prevalence of obesity is rising, there a lot of different theories as to what causes it. Diet and exercise are the obvious ways to combat it, but some studies are looking at the causes of obesity in different ways. Proximity of fast food restaurants to schools, lack of sleep and even air conditioning levels, and perhaps most interestingly a 32 year study of 12,067 people concluded that it was a contagious social disease. In 2013 the America obesity has been classified as disease causing uproar on twitter: #IAmNotADisease.

We found that major hotspots around the country where 1 in 5 people had being diagnosed as obese.

Childhood obesity is also on the rise across the country with hotspots mostly located in a belt across the country from Bristol to Cambridge.

Looking more closely at the national picture, we used the National Childhood Measurement Program data to plot the differences between children when they start primary school, to when they finish. Looking at 2008/09 data when children start in reception class (aged 5) the average rate of obesity across the country is 9.323%. When the same children finish primary school in 2013/14 (aged 10/11), their average rate of obesity has risen to 17.969%. In Ilkeston central council ward, in Erewash Borough Council childhood obesity rose from 5% to 32.6% within 6 years. We found that this wasn’t an anomaly as there were 68 other wards whose childhood obesity rates have increased by more than 400%.

However, looking closely at the graph above, we can also see that there are a small number of council wards that are successfully reducing the rate of childhood obesity. Whilst 98.2% of wards in England are facing a rise, 1.8% (138 wards out of 7618 wards in England) are reducing the incidence of childhood obesity. You could say they are 138 centres of excellence, who are providing best practices that others could learn from:

We went on to look at whether a lack of awareness about how to create a balanced diet could be a factor, and looked at whether teenagers took GSCE’s in “Design and Technology: Food Technology” or “Home Economics: Food and Nutrition” and found a, ahem, *donut* of qualifications around Leeds and Bradford, with a lower level of students taking the subject in the local area.

So in this blog post we’re going to focus on Bradford council wards to see if we can find any patterns in the local data. We find the overall diagnosed obesity rate in Bradford is 9% with each ward being split as follows:

Being mindful of the concept of obesity being a social disease, we’ve looked at the differences between adult and childhood obesity to see if there are any patterns in the data.

Using a linear correlation to look at the relationship between adult and child obesity in Bradford, we found that there is a 79.1% correlation between the groups, which is statistically significant.

Looking at deprivation levels across the Lower Super Output Areas (LSOA) in Bradford we can also see a similar pattern:


It is often thought that there is a correlation between obesity levels in schools and the number of, and proximity of takeaway restaurants in the local area. Looking at Bradford schools, obesity rates, and takeaways we can see correlations in the Keighley and city centre regions of the city:

So what can be done to help address the issues of childhood obesity? Is there a role for City Councils to change the makeup of the shops in areas of high child obesity so that less takeaway restaurants are allowed to operate in those areas? If the American studies are correct and obesity is a social disease can parents be better educated to create a balanced diet so they can influence their children’s diet now, and going forward?

Identifying the 138 council wards as centres of excellence could certainly help. Bringing them together to identify common practices could provide a national list of best practices to follow, which can only help to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.

Editors notes

Full list of 138 wards of excellence – reducing childhood obesity.
WardCouncil% obese at 4/5 years old% obese at 10/11 years old
Cleobury MortimerShropshire14.813.5
Market Drayton EastShropshire16.516.3
Much WenlockShropshire9.58.8
RedlandCity of Bristol5.65.2
Westbourne and West CliffBournemouth11.310.1
Box and ColerneWiltshire10.15.5
Chippenham Hardens and EnglandWiltshire13.810.5
Melksham Without SouthWiltshire13.713.2
Winsley and WestwoodWiltshire12.08.4
Glinton and WitteringCity of Peterborough11.910.8
NewboroughCity of Peterborough9.28.9
Bromham and BiddenhamBedford Unitary7.46.3
Wildridings and CentralBracknell Forest14.414.3
AldermastonWest Berkshire16.413.0
PangbourneWest Berkshire13.611.1
SunningdaleWindsor and Maidenhead7.55.5
Preston ParkThe City of Brighton & Hove6.96.2
Cowes NorthIsle of Wight12.310.3
Lake NorthIsle of Wight15.59.8
Sandown NorthIsle of Wight16.915.7
TotlandIsle of Wight14.913.0
Long CrendonAylesbury Vale District11.58.6
Luffield AbbeyAylesbury Vale District12.712.1
Steeple ClaydonAylesbury Vale District12.810.6
NewtownChiltern District15.314.6
Ely WestEast Cambridgeshire District9.48.2
KingsmoorFenland District17.910.4
EllingtonHuntingdonshire District9.78.3
The WilbrahamsSouth Cambridgeshire District15.515.3
WhittlesfordSouth Cambridgeshire District10.310.2
HawcoatBarrow-in-Furness District16.312.7
Kendal KirklandSouth Lakeland District18.315.7
BurbageHigh Peak District10.88.9
Hadfield NorthHigh Peak District14.510.4
Eckington SouthNorth East Derbyshire District15.012.1
Ottery St Mary TownEast Devon District11.67.7
HeavitreeExeter District15.211.9
NewtownExeter District14.813.4
CanonsleighMid Devon District11.110.8
HalbertonMid Devon District14.311.3
SilvertonMid Devon District14.011.8
PiltonNorth Devon District14.110.7
IpplepenTeignbridge District17.212.9
Tavistock SouthWest Devon District17.715.9
PortfieldChristchurch District11.38.6
St Catherine's and HurnChristchurch District14.312.3
West HighcliffeChristchurch District10.19.6
Verwood Stephen's CastleEast Dorset District10.29.9
Bridport South and BothenhamptonWest Dorset District10.19.6
Weymouth EastWeymouth and Portland District14.414.3
RattonEastbourne District15.614.7
Lewes PrioryLewes District7.73.6
Ouse Valley and RingmerLewes District12.19.7
Seaford WestLewes District11.89.6
WillingdonWealden District12.410.2
Herongate, Ingrave and West HorndonBrentwood District10.29.7
ShenfieldBrentwood District10.17.1
St JamesCastle Point District16.014.6
Wivenhoe CrossColchester District8.58.3
Great TothamMaldon District13.910.4
LodgeRochford District15.512.8
Elsenham and HenhamUttlesford District16.716.1
Saffron Walden AudleyUttlesford District9.27.0
PrestburyCheltenham District6.85.5
Kempsford-LechladeCotswold District9.47.6
KingswoodStroud District14.811.4
KingsclereBasingstoke and Deane District9.89.1
Fareham SouthFareham District16.214.7
Hill HeadFareham District8.26.7
Park GateFareham District8.87.4
Brockenhurst and Forest South EastNew Forest District8.77.8
Owslebury and CurdridgeWinchester District8.96.5
ShedfieldWinchester District9.48.7
Mundens and CotteredEast Hertfordshire District13.611.0
St StephenSt. Albans District7.44.7
Great Chart with Singleton NorthAshford District12.410.8
Brasted, Chevening and SundridgeSevenoaks District7.66.2
CastleTonbridge and Malling District17.815.5
Chorley North EastChorley District12.011.7
FairhavenFylde District9.08.9
KilnhouseFylde District10.89.2
Edisford and Low MoorRibble Valley District12.07.8
St Mary'sRibble Valley District11.79.9
ScarisbrickWest Lancashire District12.712.2
Broughton Astley-BroughtonHarborough District9.79.6
Lutterworth BrookfieldHarborough District8.57.7
MarshchapelEast Lindsey District13.611.1
StickneyEast Lindsey District17.717.6
St Anne'sSouth Kesteven District18.616.7
Gainsborough South-WestWest Lindsey District20.516.9
YarboroughWest Lindsey District21.716.4
BurlinghamBroadland District10.710.5
SpellowfieldsKing's Lynn and West Norfolk District14.212.7
ScoleSouth Norfolk District13.011.7
Stoke Holy CrossSouth Norfolk District14.811.9
ThurltonSouth Norfolk District10.29.7
BrooksideNorthampton District14.713.3
Blisworth and RoadeSouth Northamptonshire District9.18.9
SouthWellingborough District12.311.1
Kirkby MalzeardHarrogate District8.17.8
Norton WestRyedale District16.39.3
SeamerScarborough District11.910.6
Kirkby in Ashfield CentralAshfield District14.513.0
WoodhouseAshfield District16.816.0
WoodthorpeGedling District7.77.3
Bingham EastRushcliffe District5.15.0
Bingham WestRushcliffe District6.76.1
Sonning CommonSouth Oxfordshire District7.95.4
Eynsham and CassingtonWest Oxfordshire District13.712.0
Ashwick, Chilcompton and StrattonMendip District11.811.6
Shepton WestMendip District12.511.3
WincantonSouth Somerset District18.117.9
ComeytroweTaunton Deane District12.25.8
HighfieldLichfield District12.912.4
Cheslyn Hay SouthSouth Staffordshire District20.015.5
WaltonStafford District13.412.8
MercianTamworth District13.313.2
RoughamSt. Edmundsbury District13.010.0
StamfordEpsom and Ewell District6.35.8
Bookham SouthMole Valley District9.57.9
Chertsey South and Row TownRunnymede District11.29.4
ParksideSurrey Heath District9.19.0
Farnham FirgroveWaverley District7.16.3
BrookwoodWoking District11.811.3
Felpham EastArun District9.77.9
Chichester NorthChichester District6.75.0
FishbourneChichester District16.49.6
North MundhamChichester District11.310.9
Selsey NorthChichester District19.317.9
CuckfieldMid Sussex District7.03.8
Haywards Heath FranklandsMid Sussex District9.47.9
ChaseMalvern Hills District12.812.2
BowbrookWychavon District13.39.5
Broadway and WickhamfordWychavon District15.815.1
PershoreWychavon District16.916.0
Blakedown and ChaddesleyWyre Forest District15.712.6
Offmore and CombertonWyre Forest District16.614.7

Data Sources:
Creative commons image from
Childhood obesity data from the National Child Measurement program
Adult obesity data from NHS Digital – QOF
GCSE results data from Department of Education
LSOA & Ward, and population estimates from ONS
Takeaway restaurants from Food Standards Agency

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