The Guernsey Childhood Measurement Programme 2022: Our reaction

The latest statistics on levels of overweight and obesity amongst children have been released by Guernsey’s Public Health Services. You can see the press release and report from Public Health, here.  

Below we take a look at the results from our perspective, as we work to empower, enable and encourage healthy living in the Bailiwick of Guernsey.  

The Guernsey Childhood Measurement Programme has measured the weight status of children in Primary School years 1 and 5 since 2013. The data are analysed by the Health Intelligence team in Public Health and the latest report provides the 2020 & 2022 data. The 2020 data were collected before the first COVID-19 restrictions. There was no GCMP in 2021 due to the Bailiwick’s second COVID-19 lockdown. 

In 2022, 87% of eligible children in Years 1 and 5 (1,144 children) were included, meaning that the figures are likely a good representation of their year cohort. 

The latest data show that 17.7% of children in Year 1 live with overweight (9.0%) or obesity (8.7%). 26.7% of children in Year 5 live with overweight (10.6%) or obesity (16.1%).  

Despite year-on-year fluctuations, the report concludes that ‘there is not currently strong statistical evidence for a directional change in the level of excess weight', meaning that levels are, on the whole, relatively stable. As well as that ‘There are some early signs of an upward trend in the level of excess weight for Year 1 and a downward trend for Year 5’. 

So how do the local statistics compare to those from our near neighbours? Comparisons to Jersey and England need to be done with caution, especially as the GCMP looks at Years 1 and 5, while England and Jersey includes Reception and Year 6. However, local levels of child overweight and obesity remain below those in both of these jurisdictions. The Year 1 results are particularly encouraging as children are measured one year older in Guernsey. 

Local data were not collected in 2021, but we appear to not have seen the increase in overweight and obesity during the COVID years and residual increase reported in England which can be seen here and Jersey, which can be seen here.

Interestingly, the GCMP can track the weight status of children who were measured in Year 1 and again in Year 5. The findings show, as expected based on international data, that children who live with overweight or obesity when young are more likely to live with this when older. This highlights the importance of prevention efforts in early life and throughout childhood. 

When analysed by school-status, the findings indicate a health inequality that widens as children age and reflects patterns elsewhere, including England and Jersey. All children should have equitable chance to be healthy, to access affordable healthy food, and to grow up in places which enable them to be active.

Whilst we have not seen childhood overweight and obesity levels increase during the main COVID-19 period, the stable overall levels and the health inequality seen in the results show that childhood obesity remains a serious local health challenge. 

Improving children’s health needs sustained cross-sector work in policy, planning, education, leisure, hospitality, retail and healthcare. These sectors can lead the way in making small changes that will increase the flow of healthy food options for our kids and create more opportunities for them to be active. This will improve the long-term health of our community. Read more about this here. Our team are ready to support change in all of these areas.

Our work on community nutrition, physical activity and with families and children has raised the profile of the need for work in these areas and has advanced local action in all of them. Take a look at our website and annual reports (2021 report can be found here) to see examples of our work. But it is only a part of the solution that our children deserve and must be complemented by continued efforts to address the socio-economic factors which shape children’s opportunities to be healthy. 

If you work in a sector locally which could impact children’s food or physical activity environment and want to know how you can help to create a healthier generation, please get in touch here.