Effects of local authority expenditure on childhood obesity

Publication Type:
Journal Article
European Journal of Public Health, 2019, 29 (4), pp. 785 - 790
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
© 2018 The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. Background: Under the 2013 reforms introduced by the Health and Social Care Act (2012), public health responsibilities in England were transferred from the National Health Service to local authorities (LAs). Ring-fenced grants were introduced to support the new responsibilities. The aim of our study was to test whether the level of expenditure in 2013/14 affected the prevalence of childhood obesity in 2016/17. Methods: We used National Child Measurement Programme definitions of childhood obesity and datasets. We used LA revenue returns data to derive three measures of per capita expenditure: childhood obesity (<19); physical activity (<19) and the Children's 5-19 Public Health Programme. We ran separate negative binomial models for two age groups of children (4-5 year olds; 10-11 year olds) and conducted sensitivity analyses. Results: With few exceptions, the level of spend in 2013/14 was not significantly associated with the level of childhood obesity in 2016/17. We identified some positive associations between spend on physical activity and the Children's Public Health Programme at baseline (2013/14) and the level of childhood obesity in children aged 4-5 in 2016/17, but the effect was not evident in children aged 10-11. In both age groups, LA levels of childhood obesity in 2016/17 were significantly and positively associated with obesity levels in 2013/14. As these four cohorts comprise entirely different pupils, this underlines the importance of local drivers of childhood obesity. Conclusions: Higher levels of local expenditure are unlikely to be effective in reducing childhood obesity in the short term.
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