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Government report says obesity in Hampshire is ‘getting worse’ as Hampshire County Council tackles takeaways

New data shows that more than three in five adults in Hampshire are overweight, obese or severely obese.

The report also shows that nearly one in five children between the ages of 10 and 11 are also in those categories.

It comes as Hampshire County Council unveils its plan to try to encourage takeaways to improve the healthiness of food that they offer, with a new award for business.

Weight issues are often related to environment (Photo: stock)
Weight issues are often related to environment (Photo: stock)

The NHS has said being overweight or obese can lead to chronic and severe medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, where fatty deposits narrow the arteries, which can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke asthma.

The pandemic, cost of living and poor food choices due, in some circumstances, to cost have all contributed to more people gaining weight, health chiefs have said.

According to the government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, 2,815 children between 10 and 11 years old suffer from obesity or severe obesity in Hampshire in 2022/23, a trend that has increased through the years and is “getting worse”.

The percentage of adults – those 18 and over – classified as overweight or obese in 2021/22 surpasses 64%.

It said that although there are people in all population groups who are above a healthy weight, obesity is related to social disadvantage, with some population groups being more affected than others.

The prevalence of excess weight is 11% higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas of England.

During Hampshire’s Health and Wellbeing Board meeting, it was revealed that the levels of obesity are “unequal” across the county.

The rate of adults suffering from obesity goes up to 70-72% in some parts of the county, such as Rushmoor, where more than a quarter of the children are obese or severely obese and 18,000 adults are estimated to be overweight.

Martha Earley, from Frimley Integrated Care Board, which plans NHS services, said in a recent meeting with 30 other partners that they discussed the “whole life cost” and the fact that “food insecurity” is a “contributing factor” for people not to eat healthy.

Mrs Early said: “We know that poor nutrition leads to obesity and obesity.”

Dr Matt Nisbet, from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board, indicated that food banks normally only offer long-life food to vulnerable people.

“There is a difficulty to provide fresh food to them,” he said, adding: “For those people, the fuel cost is an issue; we need to understand that”.

Hampshire County Council’s health officer Darren Carmichael said: “We are talking about individuals, but it is often not the individual alone that influences the weight they have, they gain or maintain through life – it is their environment where they live, and how agencies interact with them.

Mr Carmichel indicated that in most deprived areas of Hampshire, people have four times more takeaways than those who live in more affluent areas where there are better fresh food choices.

To progress on healthier food environments, a Hampshire-wide healthier food award will be launched in 2024 for food premises like restaurants and takeaways.

“We don’t want to stop takeaways, but we can improve their food offer,” the health officer said.

The Healthy Weight Strategy 2022/26 aims to reduce or level off the prevalence of obesity by partnering with education centres, health care settings, community spaces, and GPs.

The service also includes swimming provision, and the demand for it has been double the county’s expectation since it started.

Under the strategy, general practices and community pharmacies can refer eligible Hampshire residents to the NHS digital weight management programme.

This programme supports Hampshire adults living with obesity who also have a diagnosis of diabetes, hypertension or both to manage their weight and improve their health. It is a 12-week online behavioural and lifestyle programme that people can access via a smartphone or computer.

However, Cllr Steve Forster suggested that the definition of healthy weight should take into consideration individuals who suffer from underweight food disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

Cllr Forster said: “It is very easy to focus on the element to be overweight. We do have a significant number of people who are underweight. For some of those, it is also a form of body shame.”

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