Our Youngsters Put in Spotlight in Obesity Study; Statistics Questioned, but Agreement Action Is Needed

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Rae

OBESITY rates among primary school children in the North East are among the highest in England, according to new statistics. Figures released by the NHS Information Centre yesterday show that 21.4% of Year 6 pupils in the region were classed as obese in 2010/11, compared to an England average of 19%.

The North East is the second worst in the country - only marginally eclipsed by London at 21.9% - prompting health fears for future generations.

The statistics are based on calculations of Body Mass Index, or BMI, which are used to check if people are a healthy weight for their height.

BMI is used to classify people as underweight, ideal weight, obese or very obese.

But some experts have suggested that this is not always the most accurate way of measuring obesity levels.

Personal trainer and fitness expert David Fairlamb said: "I always measure weight by a person's body fat as opposed to BMI - even in children as young as eight. Although it's slightly different for children, a person may be incorrectly classed as obese because they weigh heavier due to the fact that they are more muscular if they're athletic, for example.

"I'm not a huge believer in using BMI as there are certain variables that can affect the accuracy of the findings."

In the region obesity levels in youngsters aged 10 to 11 is worst in Newcastle, closely followed by Gateshead and South Tyneside.

The data was collected as part of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) and highlights a 0.8% rise from 2009/10 and a 1. …