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Council Sets Out Position on Tackling Obesity in Reading

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READING COUNCIL this month set out its position on the growing issue of obesity in the borough.

Current stats suggest around 61% of adults in Reading are overweight or obese, with over 35% of children in the borough overweight or obese by the time they reach Year 6 in school.

Almost 30% of Reading’s adult population aren’t achieving even a 30 minute bout of physical activity a week and almost half (45%) aren’t eating the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

Obesity can have a significant impact on people’s physical health, emotional wellbeing and reduces life expectancy. Excess weight is strongly linked to a person’s risk of developing serious long-term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Nationally, a number of long-term conditions previously considered to be diseases of adulthood are now appearing in children and young people.

In facing the challenge of reversing the rising trend in obesity, the Council has published a document that sets out the issues surrounding this complex problem. A report on the Council’s ‘Healthy Weight Statement’ goes before the Health and Wellbeing Board on Friday 27th January 2017.

The Council consulted with a number of organisations, including the local NHS, public health teams across the West of Berkshire, voluntary sector groups and HealthWatch, to develop the statement.

The statement sets out the current situation on obesity in the borough, outlines what preventative and proactive work has been done to date, provides recommendations on how to support adults and young people to a healthy weight and pinpoints emerging priorities to help focus work on key areas of need in the future.

The Council currently promotes opportunities for adults and children to maintain a healthy active lifestyle through:

  • A range of sports and leisure facilities, courses, classes and activities providing opportunities for children and adults to be physically active through Reading Sport and Leisure (RSL);
  • Parent and child cycle training in partnership with Reading CTC;
  • After school, holiday and summer play clubs for 0-13 year olds through Reading Play;
  • Health visitors offer advice to parents on breastfeeding, healthy weight, good nutrition and physical activity;
  • The Council funded Let’s Get Going scheme, which offers weight management and healthy lifestyle support for children; and
  • For adults, the Council offers Eat4Health, a free 10-week, group weight management programme available for people with a BMI over 25. The course includes both healthy eating and a physical activity session run by trained instructors.

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s Lead Member for Health, said:

“Obesity in our town, particularly amongst our children and young people, is a real concern and one of our health priorities as a council.

“Obesity reduces life expectancy by an average of 8-10 years – the same as lifelong smoking. We know that in Reading we face a significant challenge to reverse the rising trend in its prevalence. Without action this will have a huge impact on our residents’ health, quality of life and continue to burden health and social costs. The annual cost of obesity to the wider economy is estimated to be £27 billion nationally. There is also a strong correlation between rising levels of deprivation and the increasing prevalence of obesity.

“Locally we recognise the severity of obesity and the need to strengthen our efforts to ensure that people who live and work in Reading can choose a healthy, active lifestyle and have the support that they need to be a healthy weight throughout their lives.

“We support and encourage adults, young people and children to be more active through a number of great initiatives. The Council firmly believes focussing our efforts and working with partners in this area now saves public health services – including the NHS – money in the long run.

“However, continuing reductions to the public health budget as a result of in-year government cuts make it difficult for councils across the country to help people to improve their health. We are being forced to make some extremely tough decisions about where limited resources will have the most impact.”

The recommendation is to now take the position statement forward by developing a Healthy Weight Strategy and Implementation Plan for Reading. However, to tackle this problem effectively requires a multi-agency approach and the Council plans to invite partners to join an action planning group following the Health and Wellbeing Board, to help shape a comprehensive strategy delivery plan.

The full report can be viewed here: (Item 14).