Objective This study aimed to use primary care electronic health records to evaluate the prevalence of overweight and obesity in 2–15-year-old children in England and compare trends over the last two decades.
Design Cohort study of primary care electronic health records.
Setting 375 general practices in England that contribute to the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink.
Patients Individual participants were sampled if they were aged between 2 and 15 years during the period 1994–2013 and had one or more records of body mass index (BMI).
Main outcome measure Prevalence of overweight (including obesity) was defined as a BMI equal to or greater than the 85th centile of the 1990 UK reference population.
Results Data were analysed for 370 544 children with 507 483 BMI records. From 1994 to 2003, the odds of overweight and obesity increased by 8.1% per year (95% CI 7.2% to 8.9%) compared with 0.4% (−0.2% to 1.1%) from 2004 to 2013. Trends were similar for boys and girls, but differed by age groups, with prevalence stabilising in 2004 to 2013 in the younger (2–10 year) but not older (11–15 year) age group, where rates continued to increase.
Conclusions Primary care electronic health records in England may provide a valuable resource for monitoring obesity trends. More than a third of UK children are overweight or obese, but the prevalence of overweight and obesity may have stabilised between 2004 and 2013.
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