OBESITY is on the rise and figures for Lancashire show children are just as badly affected as adults, an expert warned.

The 2018/19 National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) showed there were 3,036 reception (age 4-5) and 4,572 year 6 children (age 10-11) who are overweight or obese (excess weight) in the county alone.

This equates to 23.5% of reception-age children, which is significantly higher when compared to the average across England (22.6%).

The Active Lives Survey (2017/18) estimated that 64.6% of the adult population (18+ years) in Lancashire were classed as overweight or obese, significantly above the England estimate of 62% and a slight increase from the previous reporting period in 2015/16.

In Blackburn with Darwen 21% of reception age children are overweight, while that figure is 25.1.2% in Burnley, 26.9% in Hyndburn, 25.1% in Pendle and 26% in Rossendale.

In terms of overweight year six pupils, those figures are 36.8% in Blackburn with Darwen and 37.5% in Pendle.

Shelley Perry, clinical director of Breathe Therapies, a not for profit service that offers early intervention and treatment to those with obesity, eating disorders, mental health and wellbeing issues, said: “Obesity is a public health issue affecting every health care service, workplace and individual that is more and more common and the statistics are somewhat worrying; and the more it becomes the norm the less likely we are to be challenged and change.

“The negative relationships being formed with food are affecting people of all ages and early intervention has to be the key.

“For Lancashire to be recording 23.5% of reception aged children as obese, there is much more to be done to educate parents and children from an early age and of course for schools to ensure they champion healthy eating and exercise along with positive relationships with food and bodies.

“It doesn’t mean drastic changes, fad diets or jumping on the Veganuary band wagon, it is all about making informed, educated choices, making small and sustainable changes and having a positive mental attitude to make a difference.

“Whether it’s cooking more healthily at home, avoiding sugary snacks, swapping chips for sweet potato or getting the kids to be more physically active in the playground will all play their part.

“Reducing soft drinks in accordance with the Children’s Rights Bill which HMRC introduced in 2018 with the introduction of the small drinks levy will also help. Try also reducing TV / PC and electronic game and phone time and spend that time doing fun activities like swimming or cycling and just getting fresh air.

“It’s easy to batten down the hatches in the cold winter months, but I would urge everyone to start 2020 as they mean to go on and I am confident that these stark obesity levels will be reduced and children can form a healthier relationship with food and start respecting their bodies. Let’s make engaging with healthy food and lifestyle fun and creative by introducing the idea of ‘natural colour’ in home cooking and less beige foods so they get more green, orange and yellow on their plate.”

Being overweight as a child has been associated with a range of health conditions including diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, gallstones, asthma and sleep-disordered breathing, and musculoskeletal conditions.

Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and have a higher risk of morbidity, disability and premature mortality in adulthood.