Almost a quarter of children in parts of Bridlington are classed as obese, a new report shows.
Work is going on in the town with youngsters aged five and under to try to get them off to a healthy start in life.
But the report claims the gap between the most and least healthy areas of the East Riding is widening at a startling rate, and the effects of facilities such as Bridlington’s £25 million leisure centre may not be seen for years.
At 24%, Bridlington Central and Old Town ward has the highest proportion of obese youngsters in the county. Bridlington South is close
behind with 23% a figure which has gone up by a third in the past three years.
South Hunsley is the healthiest spot, with only 9% of children considerably overweight - according to a report which will be presented to members of East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board today.
Just three years ago, the figures for the two areas were almost neck-and-neck, but despite a number of schemes to get Bridlington more active, the town’s 11-year-olds are getting bigger.
Paul Wolstencroft, associate director of public health at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “It is very difficult to attribute the rise in childhood obesity to any one particular cause but factors include poverty, culture, genetics, ethnicity, education, diet, processed food and activity levels.
“Obesity rates across England are highest for children from the most deprived areas.
“This has been recognised in the Government’s Childhood Obesity Action Plan and locally we are working with children, young people and their parents to make the healthy choice the easy choice for East Riding residents”.
Bridlington South is the most deprived ward in the East Riding and extra measures are being put in place to turn the trend around.
The report by John Skidmore, East Riding Council’s director of corporate strategy and commissioning, and Jane Hawkard, chief officer at East Riding Clinical Commissioning Group, says: “A range of services are being targeted at the Bridlington area in order to support the reduction of childhood obesity and this will be closely monitored.”
A survey of Year Six pupils showed that nationally 19.3% were obese. That figure was slightly higher for Yorkshire and Humberside, although the East Riding bucks the trend at 17.5%.
Bridlington North fares better than the other two parts of town, with 18% of youngsters moving up to secondary school classed as overweight. That puts it level with Driffield.
Pupils were weighed and measured in their primary schools and the figures used show an average from the past three years’ data.
Laurie Fergusson, public health lead for healthy lifestyles at East Riding Council said: “It’s a really, really diffcult one, you can’t just say it’s down to deprivation.
“We have got the money which has gone into the leisure centre and the interventions at schools, but it is going to take a little while before we see the results.
“A lot of the work going on now isn’t goingto transpire into what we see in the figures until a few years down the line.”
Twenty Bridlington teenagers are already taking part in Young Livewell, a weight-loss programme based at the town’s leisure centre. Work is also going on at Bridlington Children’s Centre with pregnant women and young families to address lifestyle changes and promote physical activity.
But health workers also acknowledge that lifestyles have changed, and parents have a role to play in keeping children away from computer games and fast food restaurants.
“Our kids aren’t as physically active as they were even 10 years ago,” Laurie said. “That has been recognised nationally.
“Diets have changed massively and we have a larger proportion of children having fast food meals more than once a week.
“Our job is to make sure that the message gets out there and to make it easier for parents to make a healthier choice, but it is down to them.
“It’s becoming much more socially acceptable for being overweight to be normal. You hear parents say their children are big-boned or ‘he’s a growing, strapping lad’ but we need to change that perception.
“Long-term we have got nudge people in the right direction.
“Our aim has to be for all children to be in the healthy weight category. We need them to be happy and healthy to give them the best start in life.
“It just might take a bit longer in Bridlington than in some other areas.”