Overview of Healthy Weight

The health impact of obesity

Obesity is caused by a complex set of personal, social and environmental factors. Being overweight or obese can bring physical, social, emotional and psychosocial problems, which can lead to the onset of preventable long term illness, stigma, discrimination, increased risk of hospitalisation and reduced life expectancy.

This has a direct impact on the community. An overweight or obese population is less likely to be physically active, which can lead to reduced productivity. It can affect life opportunities and place an increased demand on social care, putting extra pressure on limited services and resources. Someone who is severely obese is three times more likely to need social care than someone who is a healthy weight, so the need for quality weight management services does not only impact individuals, but also affects public funds and the wider community.

Vision 2030

Sandwell has a much worse obesity problem than the national average, both amongst children and adults. Reducing the levels of obesity in Sandwell will be a big step towards achieving the council’s 2030 ambition of Sandwell being a ‘place where we live healthy lives and live them for longer’.

Excess weight in Sandwell

In 2017/18, 12.8% of Reception aged children in Sandwell are obese, compared to 9.5% for England. This rises to 28.2% of Year 6 aged children in Sandwell, compared to 20.1% nationally. Over 18s also fair badly, with almost a third of adults in Sandwell being obese compared to 23.3% in England.

The figures are far worse when we consider “excess weight” – those overweight or obese, with almost a quarter of children in Reception being overweight or obese, rising to over two-thirds of adults.


The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) is an annual measure of the height and weight of school children which provides a detailed picture of the prevalence of child excess weight (overweight and obese) and obesity in children at reception age (4-5 year olds) and Year 6 (10-11 year olds).

In terms of excess weight (children who are overweight or obese), at Reception age, whilst Sandwell generally has a higher proportion of children who have excess weight, the West Midlands and England averages are not dissimilar. At age 10-11 (Year 6) however, the difference between Sandwell and the regional and national averages is more pronounced, and is the highest in the West Midlands conurbation area.

The difference between Sandwell and the West Midlands and England averages is much wider when considering obesity. There has been a steady increase in the level of obesity among Reception age children in Sandwell, and for Year 6 this rise has been going on for even longer. In 2017/18, the Sandwell figure now stands at more than 8 percentage points higher than England, and is the highest within the West Midlands conurbation area.

Children living in the most deprived areas of Sandwell are generally more likely to be obese than those living in the least deprived areas, although there does appear to be an anomaly to this for children of Reception age. For 2013/14 - 2017/18, there is an unexpectedly high proportion of obese children living in the least deprived quintile of Lower Super Output Areas (the LSOAs within the best 20% nationally on the Index of Multiple Deprivation). This is not currently replicated for Year 6 children, but further work may be needed to find out what is happening in these areas.

Black children are more likely to be obese than Asian or White children, at both Reception age and in Year 6.

  • In 2013/14 – 2017/18, 13.9% of Black children in Reception are obese compared to 11.8% of White children and 11.5% Asian. However, there is a more marked difference for England overall, where there is a 6 percentage point difference between the figures for Black and White groups.
  • For Year 6, the same pattern emerges. 31.6% of Black children in Sandwell are obese, compared to 25.6% of White children. Again there is a larger 10 percentage point gap between the groups nationally.
  • For excess weight, it is possible to analyse local NCMP data.

  • Again there is a similar pattern of Black groups having a greater prevalence of excess weight than other groups, for both age groups.
  • It is also possible to analyse the data at a town level. For both reception age and year 6, Wednesbury town has the highest level of excess weight in Sandwell.
  • Adults

    The Active Lives Survey explores participation in leisure and recreational activities, including sport, physical activity and culture. The survey is led by Sport England in partnership with the Arts Council, Public Health England and Department for Transport.

    Data is collected for two surveys, with the Active Lives Adult Survey focusing on people aged 16 and above, while Active Lives Children and Young People looks at the activity levels of children aged 5-16.


    The Active Lives Survey shows that in 2016/17, over 70% of adults (over 18's) in Sandwell are classified as overweight or obese, compared with 61.3% nationally. In terms of obesity, almost a third of adults are obese in Sandwell, compared with 23.3% in England.  Both of these figures are the worst in the West Midlands conurbation area.

    Due to sample size, we are unable to access local data for particular population groups.  However, data for England shows that adults have a greater chance of being overweight or obese if they are economically inactive, or disabled (70.2% of those with a disability suffer from excess weight compared with 59.6% of those who are able bodied).

    Those in routine and manual occupations are also more likely to be overweight or obese - 66.3% compared with 60.6% of those in managerial and professional occupations in 2016/17. It is routine and manual occupations that are over-represented in Sandwell compared to the national average.

    In terms of ethnicity, as with children it is Black adults who are more likely to be overweight or obese than other groups (69% of Black adults in England have excess weight in 2016/17), whilst Chinese groups have a much lower propensity (31.5%). Nationally, 62.3% of the White British population is overweight or obese.

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