Measuring children and monitoring obesity: surveys of English Primary Care Trusts 2004-06

J Public Health (Oxf). 2006 Dec;28(4):330-6. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdl070. Epub 2006 Oct 30.


Background: Child obesity has unclear determinants and consequences. A precautionary approach requires best-guess interventions and large-scale surveillance. This study was to determine the current measurement activities and the information systems required for child obesity surveillance.

Design: Questionnaire-based surveys.

Setting: Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in United Kingdom.

Participants: Two hundred and forty-seven (82%) PCTs in 2004 and 240 (79%) in 2006.

Main measures: Children's ages at which height and weight are routinely measured, the type of personnel taking the measurements, arrangements for recording data, information systems and uses of the data.

Results: PCTs measure height/length and weight most commonly at 6 weeks (74%) and 5 years (74%)-also at 6-12 months (58%), 1.5-2.5 years (50%), 2.5-4 years (40%), 11 years (18%) and 7 years (11%). Seventy-seven per cent of PCTs transferred the measurements to a database-26 different information systems were named. Six per cent of PCTs in 2004, rising to 34% in 2006, used the data to produce public health reports.

Conclusions: Body mass index (BMI) surveillance requires new arrangements in 25% of PCTs at school entry and 80% at transfer to senior school. Important aspects of child obesity surveillance not yet addressed are pre-school measurement, longitudinal assessment and the public health requirements of (child) electronic health records.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • England / epidemiology
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • School Health Services
  • State Medicine*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires