Essex weight problems are even worse

MORE than half of the population of north east Essex are obese or overweight, a shocking snapshot of the area's health has revealed.

James Hore

MORE than half of the population of north east Essex are obese or overweight, a shocking snapshot of the area's health has revealed.

The grim fact has emerged in the first lifestyle survey of its kind to be carried out by bosses at the East of England Strategic Health Authority.

And the primary care trust (PCT) for the area, NHS North East Essex, admitted the obesity situation had now become an “epidemic”.

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The new report also revealed that more than 50% of people do not eat five or more pieces of fruit and vegetables per day whilst more than one in five of the population drink harmful levels of alcohol.

The startling figures were revealed by Dr Paul Cosford, regional director of public health for the strategic health authority, in his report which the board discussed yesterday.

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A total of 36% of people in north east Essex were judged to be overweight, using the body mass index as an indicator whilst a further 17% are obese - joint highest figure for the entire region.

Both the figures for the area are higher than for the region as a whole where 34% are overweight and 14% are regarded as obese.

Nearly one in five people are smokers leading to claims that more needs to be done to tackle the problem.

More than 1,250 interviews were conducted in each PCT area late last year and more than 25,000 people were surveyed across the region.

NHS North East Essex recently unveiled plans to tackle health concerns by employing 450 volunteers who will attempt to educate and motivate people on issues including obesity and the “low levels” of physical activity as well as smoking rates and levels of alcohol and substance abuse.

No-one from NHS North East Essex was available for comment yesterday.

However, speaking last week Kate French, senior health improvement adviser at the PCT, said: “Obesity is fast becoming the number one health problem facing children and young people today.

“Research clearly indicates that overweight and obese children are likely to remain so into adulthood.

“Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle are major contributors to obesity and the onset of heart disease, type II diabetes and some forms of cancer. The problem has reached epidemic proportions in the UK.”

Dr Paul Cosford, regional director of public health, said: “Levels of inactivity are very high in some sections of the population and the NHS must do more to provide lifestyle support services to those groups.

“Taking this with the levels of self-reported obesity, we know there is much more to be done in this area.

Campaigns like change4life are aiming to reduce levels of obesity in children and young people, and the NHS in our region has already made a pledge in Improving Lives; Saving Lives to reduce levels of childhood obesity.

“The NHS in the east of England has made a commitment to cut the number of smokers in the region by 140,000 by 2011.

“The results from this survey give us a very strong message that we must do more to target young smokers.

“Too many teenagers and young people smoke, we need to do more to reduce these numbers and discourage people from taking up the habit in order to curb the trend.

“We know that if we can encourage more people to make positive behaviour change this can lead to dramatic improvements in health.”

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