Almost three quarters of adults in Hartlepool are estimated to be overweight or obese making the town one of the podgiest places in the country.
Hartlepool’s 2016 Health Profile states 73% of town adults fall into the category – the fourth highest rate nationally and highest for the North East.
Public health chiefs also say there are serious concerns at Hartlepool’s levels of childhood obesity with just under 40% of 10 and 11-year-olds said to be overweight or obese.
Steven Carter, health improvement practitioner at Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “This is an ongoing significant issue within the town. Unfortunately, Hartlepool does have the fourth highest rates nationally for adult obesity.
“Hartlepool does have the highest excess weight across the North East region as well so naturally is a concern for us.”
Mr Carter said although the adult statistics were based on a sample of only 5% to 10% of the population, he said analysts believe the figure to be an under estimate.
This is an ongoing significant issue within the townSteven Carter, Hartlepool Borough Council
He outlined a range of actions taking place under the town’s 10-year Healthy Weight Strategy.
They include Trading Standards working with takeaway operators to support healthier cooking and food options and attempts to curb fast food outlet numbers in Hartlepool’s new Local Plan.
In 2015-16, there were 642 referrals to a GP Exercise on Referral Scheme and 509 to the council’s Health Trainer Service.
The council’s Audit and Governance Committee is to ask its sport and leisure department to look at opening council-run gyms earlier in the morning.
Committee members also urged greater advertising of the council’s Go Active card which offers big discounts to people on benefits.
Coun Rob Cook said: “We have got to make it affordable for all, not just the few.”
Coun Lesley Hamilton said more focus needed to be placed on cooking skills in schools saying: “It is fundamental to healthy eating and how we feed ourselves and our children.”
Mr Carter said he hoped to see some key improvements within the next five years adding: “Certainly all the initiatives we’ve got in place we are evaluating and seeing some really positive impacts in terms of things like the diabetes programme and health trainer programme, they have seen some fantastic results but there on a relatively small scale.”