National Child Measurement Programme
The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the weight and height of children in reception class (aged 4 to 5 years) and year 6 (aged 10 to 11 years) to assess overweight children and obese levels within primary schools. This data can be used at a national level to support local public health initiatives and inform the local planning and delivery of services for children.
The programme is now recognised internationally as a world-class source of public health intelligence and holds UK National Statistics status.
The NCMP was set up in line with the Government's strategy to tackle obesity and to:
- inform local planning and delivery of services for children
- gather population-level data to allow analysis of trends in growth patterns and obesity
- increase public and professional understanding of weight issues in children and be a vehicle for engaging with children and families about healthy lifestyles and weight issues.
Children's heights and weights are measured and used to calculate a Body Mass Index (BMI) centile. The measurement process is overseen by trained healthcare professionals in schools. Results from the NCMP are available in the data catalogue.
Defining Overweight and Obesity in Children
Defining children as overweight or obese is a complex process, given that their height and weight change at the same time. An individual's BMI is calculated by dividing their weight (expressed in kilograms) by the square of their height (expressed in metres).
The method of assigning a BMI classification is different for children and adults. Further information is available in 'A simple guide to classifying body mass index in children' (external link) produced by the National Obesity Observatory (NOO) in June 2011.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the NCMP compulsory?
Participation in the programme is not compulsory, but non-participation is on an opt-out basis only. Before the programme starts each school year, PCTs write to the parents and carers of all children eligible for measurement to inform them of the programme and to give them the opportunity to opt their children out. Children are not made to participate if they do not want to.
How is the NCMP data collected?
PCTs are asked to collect data on children's height and weight from all state maintained schools within their area. The data are submitted to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) using the NCMP Upload Tool and all of the returns are collated and validated centrally.
Every year the Department of Health provides operating guidance to PCTs and schools which emphasises how to undertake the exercise. The guidance also clearly points out that:
- PCTs will take steps to ensure that parents receive a letter explaining the purpose of the programme, and provide them with the opportunity to withdraw their child from it.
- If PCTs are routinely feeding back results to parents, they aim to do this within six weeks of measurement.
- The privacy and dignity of the child must be safeguarded at all times and the measurement is to be done sensitively in a private setting.
- The height and weight information must be gathered by health professionals with minimal physical contact.
- Individual children's results will not be shared with school staff or other pupils and suppression and disclosure controls will be implemented when the data set and publication is released to ensure that individual children cannot be identified.
What happens to the data once it is sent to the HSCIC?
When the data is uploaded to the NCMP database, it is anonymised by removing or converting all identifiable fields: the name of the child is automatically removed; the postcode is converted to lower Super Output Area; the date of birth is converted to age in months.
Although the HSCIC will not have access to any patient-identifiable information, there are robust information security measurements in place to ensure that the data held is stored and accessed securely.
Following the release of the report, PCTs are given their own validated, anonymous, aggregated data (via their Public Health Observatory). A reduced data set is available on the UK Data Archive (external link) and is freely available.
How to access the data
Local Authority level results from the NCMP for England are released on the Neighbourhood Statistics (NeSS) website, which is administered by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
- Go to the NeSS homepage (external link)
- Click on 'I want to view or download data by topic', then click on Health and Care under the Neighbourhood Statistics topics.
- Select 'Prevalence of Underweight, Healthy Weight, Overweight and Obese Children by Gender'.
The final few steps are self-explanatory.
You can also read the HSCIC's NCMP publications.