A fat lot of good...

Obese children in Wigan are causing concern for health chiefs
Obese children in Wigan are causing concern for health chiefs

SHEFFIELD is losing the battle against obesity.

Despite spending almost £10 million over three years fighting fat, one in five of our 11-year-olds is obese.

The city now has more than 1,060 Year 6 pupils - youngsters aged 10 and 11 - considered grossly overweight.

An unpublished report seen by The Star reveals that although Sheffield is doing better than other comparable cities the proportion of obese 11-year-olds has risen in the last three years.

In 2008 the figure stood at 18 per cent and despite a welcome reduction in the rate of increase last year’s figure was 20.24 per cent.

The number of obese four and five-year-olds also rose in the same period, from 9.4 per cent to 10 per cent. That’s more than 500 children.

Sheffield’s £10 million slice of the national Change4Life project was funded with £5m of NHS and Sheffield Council cash, and £5m from the Government’s Healthy Communities budget.

Despite a slight dip in obesity figures in 2010, numbers rose last year based on the National Child Measurement Programme which weighs more than 10,000 Sheffield children each year.

In a separate, smaller study across eight city schools it was found 41 per cent of 12 to 13-year-olds are severely overweight. The most deprived areas of the city had the most acute obesity and overweight problems.

The figures will shock parents, and come despite many successes claimed by the Change4Life initiative to encourage exercise, better diets and healthier lifestyles.

Sheffield Consultant in Public Health, Sheila Paul, believes the short-term setbacks will be outweighed by longer term gains.

“Obesity is a long-term problem and we are aiming for long term solutions for it,” she said.

“Change4Life was a compilation of that. Sheffield is in a more fortunate position than other cities. Looking forward it’s about long-term change.

“Although there has been a slight increase in obesity, in terms of where Sheffield stands in the eight core cities outside London we have the third highest proportion of healthy weight children in reception classes and in Year 6.”

The report, prepared by Sheffield Hallam University sports science and business experts for Sheffield Council and the NHS said: “The 2010/11 data suggests the prevalence of obesity in Sheffield had risen from 9.2 per cent to 9.6 per cent in reception year and from 18.6 to 20.24 per cent in Year 6 since last year.

“The increases in 2010/2011 are of concern.

“It is essential obesity remains high on the agenda for Sheffield in terms of public health priorities, and that resource and effort remains focused on reducing obesity rates.”