National Child Measurement Programme
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 for children?
Participation in the programme is not compulsory, but non-participation is on an opt-out basis only. Before the programme starts each school year, Local Authorities 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. Further information about participation is available from Public Health England.
How is the NCMP data collected?
Local Authorities 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) and all of the returns are collated and validated centrally.
Until March 2013 PCTs were responsible for the collection, holding and processing of NCMP data. However, following legislation Local Authorities are now responsible for the collection of NCMP data.
To support local authorities to deliver the NCMP effectively, the excel- based tool for validating locally collected data and submitting it to the HSCIC is being replaced with a new system for 2013-14 school year.
Public Health England role
Public Health England will provide operating guidance to Local Authorities and schools to explain how to undertake the exercise. The guidance will point out that:
- Local Authorities 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 Local Authorities 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.
How to access the data
Data and all publications relating to NCMP can be found on the HSCIC website under NCMP publications.
The Public Health England Obesity Knowledge and Intelligence team (PHE Obesity K&I) produce additional analyses and the anonymised data will be made available to Public Health England to allow regional and local analyses of the data. NCMP datasets from 2006-07 to 2012-13 are deposited in the UK Data Archive.
In addition, PHE Obesity K&I also present NCMP data in an online data tool that enables the user to examine patterns and trends at local authority level.