CHILDREN in Burnley and Pendle are officially the fattest in Lancashire.
Nearly 38 per cent of Year Six students in Burnley and Pendle are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, according to figures.
And more than one in four youngsters in Burnley start education with weight problems, said experts behind the NHS National Child Measurement Programme.
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But health commissioners in East Lancashire said they have devised specialist assistance to help young people win the schoolyard battle of the bulge.
The shock statistics show 12 per cent of reception class entrants are obese and 23.6 per cent of primary school leavers fall into the same category.
Neighbouring Rossendale fares slightly better as part of the same research, but 34.6 per cent of youngsters in the same two age groups are obese or overweight.
The combined average nationally is 34.3 per cent and the north-west benchmark is slightly higher at 35.2 per cent.
Cllr Azhar Ali, the county council’s health and wellbeing cabinet member, who represents Nelson South division is worried the situation could get worse if public health grants are reduced by 2020.
He said: “These are concerning figures and efforts to get children more active in the age of tablets and computer games are very difficult.
“There is valuable work being done with county wide programmes like the ‘Up And Active’ programme and Pendle and Burnley leisure trusts do good work in encouraging kids between the ages of four and 11 to go swimming.
“However many of these programmes are underpinned by public health grants from central government which are to be scrapped by 2020.
“This will put these services under extreme pressure or even stop them.
“Why don’t we scrap nonsensical spending like refurbishing the Royal Yacht and spend it on working for healthier futures for our children?”
Town councillors in Nelson are behind a £10,000 scheme to offer free swimming for youngsters at the town’s Wavelengths pool.
Prof Paul Gateley, of childhood obesity campaigners MoreLife, said: “The biggest difference between childhood obesity and adult obesity is that, depending upon their age and circumstances, young people have generally less control over their food intake.
“Older children have more responsibility over their lifestyle choices than their younger peers whose diet and exercise patterns are largely controlled by their parents and caregivers.
“It is a fact that children with obese parents are 12 times more likely to be overweight than if their parents were a healthy weight. It’s not just about food, it is about how active we are too.”
The figures for Lancashire cover the 12 county districts.
The position in Blackpool is even starker, as 25.9 per cent of reception age children and 39.9 per cent of Year Six pupils are overweight or obese.
In Blackburn with Darwen just 20.6 per cent of reception children have problems with their weight and the proportion is 35.6 per cent for Year Six.
Children are recommended to be active for 60 minutes per day, but the organisation has undertaken research showing children spend 52 hours per week either watching TV, on the net or playing video games.
Dr Mark Dziobon, a Burnley GP and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) clinical performance director, said: “There’s no shortage of things that you can do to help you or your child lose weight.
“The NHS Choices website has a top 12 things you can do list, including building exercise into your daily life.
“For example, taking the stairs rather than using the lift, walking to the shops rather than going by car, and reducing drinking sugary drinks and sweets can make a big difference.”
He is advising worried parents to take up in ‘Up and Active’, which the CCG has financially backed and is run by Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Council for Voluntary Services.
A CCG spokesman said: “Research shows that if a child is overweight now, they are more likely to be overweight as an adult, which can lead to health problems in later life. This measurement is an important way of checking how a child is growing.”
NHS trusts use the measurement programme figures as a planning tool for future services provision.
Doctors in East Lancashire have thrown their support behind efforts to reduce the amount of sugar in food and drinks, as part of a wide-ranging childhood obesity plan.
Dr David White, the Burnley GP and CCG clinical lead, said: “Being overweight has become the norm. With around three in 10 children overweight, it’s difficult for parents to see whether their child is unhealthy or not, as they will compare them to other children.”