Objectives: To determine whether weight problems in children (overweight, obesity and overweight or obesity) were related to deprivation indices when attributed only according to electoral ward of the school attended. To determine whether children with weight problems were more likely to be found in some wards rather than others, and to compare the distribution for boys and girls.
Design: Retrospective, cross-sectional, observational study.
Setting: One hundred and six primary schools from all parts of Liverpool city.
Subjects: Five cohorts of 9-10-year-old children between 1998 and 2003.
Main outcome measures: Body mass index (BMI) for each child to estimate proportions overweight, obese and overweight or obese according to international criteria.
Results: Between January 1998 and March 2003, the heights and weights of 7902 boys and 7514 girls were measured and BMI calculated. The prevalence of boys and girls categorised as overweight or obese was very high (1620, 20.6% and 1909, 25.7%, respectively). Prevalence was not related to deprivation and varied between wards only for the girls; some wards had very different prevalence rates for boys and girls (Picton: 59 boys, 23.4%; 106 girls, 36.6%). The most deprived ward did not have a remarkable prevalence of overweight or obesity (Speke: 32 boys, 15.3%; 40 girls, 19.8%).
Conclusions: Obesity is a major problem and requires urgent action but targeting intervention on the basis of administrative areas may be very wasteful. Different factors seem to lead to obesity in boys and girls, and attention should be paid to the role of the physical environment.