12.7% of children joining reception classes in Tower Hamlets are at risk of obesity. This staggering figure, one of the highest in the UK, rises yet further to 25.6% by the time children reach Year 6. This is again above the national average (London Health Observatory, 2010).
For every secondary school in Tower Hamlets, there are 41.8 fast food outlets; this is significantly higher than the national average of 25 (Caraher, Lloyd & Madelin, 2014). Conversely, only 15% of children in Tower Hamlets achieve the recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetable intake, a trend reflected in the Tower Hamlets adult population, of whom only one in ten adults eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day (NHS Tower Hamlets, 2011). Many children skip healthier options at school and with parents and guardians out at work, fast food is an easy option.
Activity levels are also distressingly low with the percentage of children participating in at least 2 hours of sport per week far below the national average, with the majority of that activity delivered through PE and school sport. This is further problematised with the lack of sports clubs, structured activity, and safe, open spaces within the borough.
In 2008 Tower Hamlets was selected as 1 of 9 UK boroughs (and the only London borough) to be involved in the Healthy Boroughs scheme and, as well as general preventative programmes, the borough has projects like MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it!) and BEST (Better Eating, Self-esteem, Total health) where children who are already over-weight and unhealthy are referred onto specialist intervention schemes.