Positive moves to trim city’s obesity

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POVERTY used to mean skinny, underfed kids in hand-me-down clothes without enough to eat or decent housing.

But in 2012 deprivation is also about over-indulgence, ignorance and bad habits.

Picture credit: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

Picture credit: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

Habits all too easily reinforced by peer pressure, advertising and easy access to cheap, high-calorie food, habits that have given Sheffield, the UK and the western world a huge obesity problem.

In yesterday’s Star we highlighted a report into obesity across Sheffield and the region but due to technical difficulties much of the story – including the words of Sheffield Consultant in Public Health Sheila Paul – was not reproduced in the paper.

We reported that despite spending almost £10 million over three years to fight 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.

The report 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.

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

“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 rate of increase in obesity rates has slowed and Sheffield is in a relatively good position compared to most other other core cities outside London,” she said.

“We are third best in the table when it comes to lower obesity numbers and we had the third highest proportion of healthy weight children. These are positive figures.

“We are in a positive position compared to other cities and we have made some progress in changing eating and exercise behaviours. Sheffield schools are keen to take part and we are trying to prolong the Change 4 Life progress going into the future.’’

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,” it said.

“The increases in 2010/2011 are of concern. It is essential that 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.”

Of 97 Sheffield neighbourhoods tested the most acute obesity problems in 2010 were in the Housesteads, Westfield and Granville areas.

Abbeyfield, Netherthorpe and Ecclesfield were in the middle of the group, with Fulwood, Millhouses and Ranmoor areas having fewest obese children.