SHOCKING new figures have revealed that almost four in 10 Hartlepool children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.
In a report published as part of the Government’s National Child Measurement Programme, it has been revealed that 39.7 per cent of Year Six pupils across Hartlepool are classified as overweight or obese, and therefore at risk of serious health problems in later life.
The figure is well above the 33.9 per cent national average and also a worrying increase on last year, when 38.4 per cent of Hartlepool’s Year Six pupils were found to be overweight or obese.
The NHS report also showed that nearly a quarter of reception-age children in Hartlepool are also classified as overweight or obese.
Of the 1,125 reception pupils measured in Hartlepool, 23.7 per cent were found to be overweight or obese compared to a national average of 22.6 per cent.
Despite the worrying statistics, Hartlepool health chiefs stress they are doing everything possible to overcome the issue.
Louise Wallace, Hartlepool Borough Council’s director of public health, said: “Childhood obesity is one of the key health priorities for the town, and since the council took over public health responsibilities from April this year, much has been done to tackle the issue.
“For example, the council has recently introduced the free swims scheme at Mill House Leisure Centre to encourage children to be active and stay healthy. Also, we are encouraging children and young people to participate in a whole host of sporting and recreational opportunities - some in conjunction with local clubs - and we are really pleased with the take up.
“We are also working very closely with schools across the town on an inititative called ‘Hearty Lives. Younger and Wiser’, which is designed to encourage children to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Funded through the British Heart Foundation, the programme is progressing really well, with children and their families really embracing it.
She added: “Obesity can lead to all kinds of illnesses and has a detrimental effect on people’s lifestyles, and so it’s so important that children receive the right support, help and encouragement to prevent it in the first place, but also to overcome it if they are overweight. We do not underestimate the challenge that lies ahead in driving obesity figures down, but people can be assured that all of the relevant organisations are working very hard together to combat it.”
Despite this, the new statistics aren’t much better on a regional level, with the North East registering the highest percentage of overweight or obese reception children (24.5 per cent) of any Strategic Health Authority in England.
The North East just missed out on the unwanted top spot for Year Six pupils, with its 37 per cent of children classified as overweight or obese only beaten by London’s figure of 37.5 per cent.
Every reception-age and Year Six child in England is measured as part of the National Child Measurement programme, with their height and weight recorded in order to calculate their body mass index (BMI).
A BMI of between 18.5 and 25 is considered healthy, while a result between 25-30 is classed as ‘overweight’.
A BMI of 30-40 is categorised as ‘obese’, with a result of more than 40 classified as ‘morbidly obese’.