Joint Strategic Needs Assessment Topic Report: Obesity

Summary of local need

Although Buckinghamshire compares well with other areas in the South-East and England, the prevalence of excess weight among adults is still very high, with over 60% of adults (estimated to be over a quarter of a million people locally) not at a healthy weight (Obesity Profile - Data - OHID).

Additionally, only 58.4% of adults in Buckinghamshire are currently meeting the recommended ‘5-a-day’ fruit and vegetable intake (2020/21)(Public health profiles - OHID).

Obesity rates in early pregnancy in Buckinghamshire (16.3%) are one of the lowest in the South-East region and when compared to England (22%). Buckinghamshire also has one of the lowest levels of hospital admissions (2019/20) with a primary diagnosis of obesity compared to the region and England (Obesity Profile - Data - OHID).

In children, 1 in 5 Reception aged child (4 to 5 years old) (18.2%) were overweight or obese increasing significantly to 1 in 3 in Year 6 (10 to 11 year olds) (31.1%).

Boys have a higher prevalence of obesity than girls for both age groups.

Significant inequalities also exist across the county, with a disproportionate number of those living in our more deprived communities more likely to be affected by obesity.

By the time children reach year 6, there is a stark trend related to deprivation, with those children in the more deprived communities having the highest rates of overweight and obesity – 37% in DQ5 compared to 20% in DQ1.

The chart below shows Beaconsfield & Chepping Wye (36%); Missendens (38%); Wing & Ivinghoe (47%) as the community boards with the highest percentage of Year 6 children who are overweight or obese.

Figure 2: Percentage of Year 6 children who are overweight or obese in Buckinghamshire by Community Board, 2019/20

The data indicates that, while overall trends are positive and that Buckinghamshire performs well, rates of obesity are clustered and are coterminous with deprivation. It also suggests that the situation is not a stable one and rates appear to be worsening so that by Year 6, prevalence looks closer to the national rate – particularly in relation to those who are obese. Conversely the rate of those who are of a healthy weight is declining.

A full data profile looking at findings from the National Child Measurement programme is published alongside this report.

Excess weight in Reception and Year 6 2015/16 to 2019/20

Figure 3: Percentage of overweight or obese children in Reception and Year 6, 2015/16 to 2019/20
and Obese
Year R Bucks Year 6 Bucks Year R England Year 6 England
2012/13 19.1 28.3 22.2 33.3
2013/14 18.1 27.4 22.5 33.5
2014/15 18.7 26.9 21.9 33.2
2015/16 18.8 28.5 22.1 34.2
2016/17 18.0 26.9 22.6 34.2
2017/18 18.4 28.5 22.4 34.3
2018/19 18.2 29.4 22.6 34.3
2019/20 18.0 31.1 23.0 35.2

Figure 3: Percentage of overweight or obese children in Reception and Year 6, 2015/16 to 2019/20

There is a significant increasing trend for Year 6 children who are obese or severely obese.

The wider impacts findings above clearly demonstrate that local levels of overweight and obesity are not just an issue for public health.

Impacts on economic burden, stigmatisation and discrimination, productivity loss, the environment and education align to wider local priorities and make the case for why addressing obesity should receive priority from all sectors.

In addition, it is evidenced that being overweight increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (Excess weight can increase risk of serious illness and death from covid-19). Evidence also indicates a negative impact on individuals dietary and physical activity behaviour during lockdowns (Excess Weight and COVID-19).

Whilst many people reported positive nutrition behaviours, such as frequently cooking from scratch during 2020-21, the majority of people also responded their unhealthy snacking behaviours (cakes, biscuits, confectionary and savoury snacks and purchasing takeaways) had increased.

Males and those living in single households were significantly less likely to eat healthy meals.

Those living in a house with at least one child present, 16 to 44 year olds, and those living in larger households were also significantly more likely to buy processed foods (The COVID-19 consumer research | Food Standards Agency).

Child obesity levels are measured through the National Child Measurement Programme that measures the height and weight of children in Reception (aged 4 to 5 years) and Year 6 (aged 10 to 11 years) each year.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 a large enough sample was not able to be collected in schools across Buckinghamshire in 2020/21.

National data shows obesity prevalence increased in Reception children from 9.9% (2019/20) to 14.4% (2020/21) and increased in Year 6 children from 21% (2019/20) to 25.5% (2020/21).

Prior to 2020 to 2021 prevalence of obesity had only seen small annual changes, more data is needed to know whether this is a long-term increase.