A HEALTH committee will try to get the message across to families about the long-term risks of obesity ahead of a conference planned for next year.
The Health and Wellbeing committee met at Hartlepool Civic Centre to discuss the issue, with recent figures revealing that almost a third of the town’s youngsters are classed as being overweight.
In a meeting chaired by council leader, Coun Christoper Akers-Belcher, who is also chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Committee, it was agreed to start work on a campaign ahead of a conference which is scheduled to take place next February to discuss the issue at length.
Louisa Ells, a specialist adviser to Public Health England who is based at Teesside University, told the committee that childhood obesity needs to be tackled from birth rather than waiting until school years.
She said: “The figures show that this is clearly a significant public health challenge and it is a priority area for us.
“Issues surrounding overweight and obesity costs the NHS around £5bn a year. Figures from 2011 show that the North-East has the greatest number of obesity prescription items.
“What we need to do is tailor the needs of the local population, to evaluate what we are doing and to understand what doesn’t work.
“We need to adopt a family-based approach. It is about lifestyle, and if mum or dad has weight problems then it is more than likely that the child will.”
Louise Wallace, the council’s director of public health, added: “We can see from the data that 10 per cent of reception children are deemed as overweight or obese.
“At the end of the primary years, that figures rises to 24 per cent so we can see what is happening is quite significant.
“It’s not that dissimilar nationally.”
The meeting also heard that the council will work closely with the national campaign Change 4 Life, which targets families and gets the healthy lifestyle message across.