South Tyneside’s £50m battle to beat the bulge

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A WEIGHTY battle to slash South Tyneside’s £50m a year NHS obesity bill was launched today.

Shock statistics show that almost a third of the borough’s adult population is deemed obese – and a staggering 38 per cent of our 10 to 11-year-olds are also considered overweight or obese.

Those figures are significantly higher than the national average.

Today, members of the council’s people select committee were meeting to endorse the 16 recommendations of a commission set up to tackle the problem.

The cost of obesity to the NHS in South Tyneside stands at £50.7m, and is expected to rise still further to £54.2m by 2015.

The 2011 South Tyneside Health Profile reveals that 27.4 per cent of the borough’s adult population is overweight or obese – compared with an average of 24.2 per cent nationally.

Action is needed, as obesity contributes significantly to the development of Type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.

From March through to October last year, the commission met eight times, interviewing dozens of experts in the field of health and diet before drawing up its recommendations. These include working with headteachers and governors to address lifestyle issues within borough schools.

An annual report on the success of obesity among the borough’s young people is also to be presented to a council committee.

And training sessions are to be held with borough GPs, working in deprived neighbourhoods, on services available for preventing people becoming overweight.

A report is to be presented to the committee by Coun Allan West, the council’s lead member for health and wellbeing. He says: “Many people who suffer from obesity just dismiss their problem until it becomes even more serious, such as a heart attack or a stroke.

“It is a really difficult challenge to find ways of encouraging people to change their lifestyle, particularly in deprived areas, where there are other priorities and access to physical activity and healthy diet is more difficult. If we do not make significant progress in addressing the issue, then a disproportionate number of people will suffer illness and premature death in the borough, and there will be continuing pressures on the budget for health and social care.”

Amanda Healy, acting director of public health for South Tyneside Primary Care Trust, said: “Having a healthy lifestyle is important in reducing your risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes. We recommend eating a balanced diet with food which is low in fat and sugar, and exercising for 30 minutes five times a week to stay fit and healthy.

“There are a range of services available in South Tyneside to help people to eat a healthy diet and encourage physical activities including slimming and exercise on referral initiatives for adults and the MEND (Mind, Exercise and Ntrition … Do it) programme for children.”