Battle of the bulge – Two-thirds of Hartlepool overweight

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WORRIED health chiefs are to wage a new war on bulging obesity levels in Hartlepool.

Shocking figures reveal two-thirds of the town’s population are overweight - with one in three worryingly classed as being obese.

Health bosses, who have classed the issue as a key priority, say enough is enough and are looking to reduce the disturbing numbers.

It comes as figures show Hartlepool is above average, with 68.5 per cent overweight or obese and of those, 37.9 per cent classed as overweight and 30.6 per cent obese. It was also recently revealed the town was rated fourth worst in a national table of obesity-related hospital admissions and the health implications have been outlined by public health chiefs.

The issue was highlighted at a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee, chaired by council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher.

Louise Wallace, the council’s director of public health, revealed: “Overweight and obesity is a major public health issue nationally with 63.8 per cent of the population either overweight or obese.

“In Hartlepool, rates are higher still, with 68.5 per cent of residents carrying excess weight, with 37.9 per cent overweight and 30.6 per cent obese.

“Overweight and obesity is a major risk factor and contributor to cases of many chronic health conditions including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers, hence a healthy weight service to support Hartlepool residents is a key priority.”

Figures show Hartlepool also has a lower rate of active adults in the population, just 49.7 per cent, compared to 56 per cent nationally.

Meanwhile, the former Hartlepool Primary Care Trust (PCT) had 83 hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of obesity from 2012 to 2013, which equates to 90 people per 100,000 population.

Officials hope to tackle the growing problem with the launch of a new healthy weight service, to build on the work already in place.

At the committee meeting, officers got approval to secure a new Healthy Weight Service for Hartlepool, to be funded through the ring fenced public health grant, starting from April 2015.

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has been operating the NHS Health Trainer Service for a number of years providing free weight management support for adults in Hartlepool either on a one-to-one basis or in groups.

Clients are typically offered 12 sessions, including support from health trainers.

It was noted at the meeting that a healthy weight review was currently underway, in partnership with Stockton, which would be used to develop a “comprehensive service specification” for a new healthy weight service for Hartlepool.

Officers say they intend to start the procurement process in October, with a view to the successful provider operating the new service next April. The changes are coming in following the council recently taking over the responsibility for public health.

In April last year the council inherited a contract for a healthy weight service provided by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and it was agreed to place a one-year contract from April this year with the existing provider, the trust.

Mrs Wallace confirmed to councillors that the procurement process for the new Healthy Weight Service would be undertaken in-house at no extra cost.

Labour councillor Paul Beck said it was important to get the message across about healthy lifestyles at a young age, including to school children.

Mrs Wallace said the healthy weight service was focussed on a specific group of people but did form part of the council’s larger strategy around improving healthier lifestyles across the town.

Committee members noted the report and it was agreed to secure a provider for a healthy weight service, funded by the ring fenced public health grant in 2015-16.

• HOW obesity is measured:

The most common method of measuring obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI).

BMI is calculated by dividing body weight (kilograms) by height (metres) squared.

An adult BMI of between 25 and 29.9 is classified as overweight and a BMI of 30 or over is classified as obese.