Can You Guess A Child’s Economic Status By Their Weight?

According to Public Health Minister Anna Soubry, in years gone by the poor children at school were the ‘skinny runts’, but now the wellbeing scales have tipped the other way. Soubry says that the deprived kids are now the fattest, in light of the nation’s struggles with the obesity epidemic. Soubry, who has been in the job for four months, is no stranger to controversy, as she has been criticised for her comments about ‘appalling’ right-to-die laws and how the government had ‘screwed up’ its reform message.


Soubry admitted that children from richer backgrounds can be obese, but the greater propensity for obesity lay among the more deprived communities. According to the latest figures, children from the most deprived 10% of backgrounds are nearly twice as likely to be obese. 12.3% of the poorest reception kids are obese, compared to 6.8% from the wealthiest backgrounds, and a similar pattern can be found among year six pupils.


However, when overweight children that are not quite classed as obese are included, this complicates the situation. The likelihood of children from the more deprived backgrounds being overweight is still higher, but by a much smaller margin – a case of a percentage point in the case of year six pupils. When you combine overweight and obese children, about four in 10 children from the most deprived backgrounds are carrying excess weight, compared to nearly three in 10 from the richest. At reception age, this gap gets even closer, at one in four, compared to just below one in five.


Therefore, Miss Soubry is right, but not categorically, and so has been accused of attempting to make the situation seem more newsworthy that it actually is, in order to get you talking and thinking about wellness issues. According to Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, it is an ‘insult’ to low-income parents who work hard to provide their children with a healthy diet against the odds, and it would be better to target the food industry: ‘The government has to be tougher and set limits to the salt, sugar and fat in foods. We are living in an obesogenic environment where it is harder to make healthier choices. Parents have to feed their children.’


Prof Alan Maryon-Davis, on the other hand, who is a former president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, says that while he has some sympathy with the suggestion that such comments can stigmatise people, ‘By saying what she did in the way she said it she got attention. People start talking about the issue and that is good. And it must be remembered she also talked about bad food and industry so I prefer to give her credit.’

Comments are closed.