'Fat map' paints a healthier picture

A NEW “fat map” published today reveals Suffolk and Essex appear to be winning the fight against obesity - but health bosses warned many children are still at risk.

Craig Robinson

A NEW “fat map” published today reveals Suffolk and Essex appear to be winning the fight against obesity - but health bosses warned many children are still at risk.

Compiled from information from GPs, it shows the percentage of patients registered with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is considered “low”.

But last night health bosses said while the figures showed progress with regards to adults, there was still a real danger that some children will die before their parents because of their weight.

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According to the map, created by Dr Foster Research, the proportion of individuals registered to a GP surgery with a BMI of 30 or more (considered obese) in Suffolk stands at 7.1% - or one in 14.

The figure also stands at 7.1% in North East Essex Primary Care Trust (PCT) while in Mid Essex PCT it stands at 6.6%.

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Sally Hogg, head of health improvement at NHS Suffolk, said: “Yes, we are better than most of the country but we are still concerned that our children are getting larger. We are still in line with the rest of the UK in this respect - last year a third of our youngsters were overweight or obese.

“For the first time ever this means there is a real chance of children dying before their parents. We need to try and encourage everyone to take stock of their own lives - think about the little things you can do to make a difference, such as walking or running up stairs or going for a bike ride.”

Mrs Hogg said NHS Suffolk was continuing to work in partnership with the county council and other groups to drive home the healthy lifestyle message.

She said they were looking at ways to introduce new cycle paths and to make play areas safer for youngsters to encourage them to get outside.

“It's really about changing our culture,” Mrs Hogg said. “It could take 10 years but we need to reduce the reliance on fast food and ready meals and make sure everyone gets their five fruit and veg a day.

“We really need to keep an eye on our children. They're not necessarily overweight but we want to make sure they are living right - there is proven evidence to show that obesity can cause all kinds of health problems in later years.”

Dr John Cormack , Essex spokesman for the British Medical Association, said a lot of work still needed to be done.

“I think all GPs are seeing lots of obese patients and needless to say, they would be more likely to suffer from diabetes, strokes and heart attacks and it is a great worry in terms of people's life expectancy,” he said.

“More and more people are doing the daily 30 minutes of exercise. However, there are too many people who were watching the Olympics but not going for a jog or a row down the river - there are a lot of armchair sports enthusiasts and that needs to change.”

Chris French, public health specialist at North East Essex PCT, said there was a weight management and physical activity strategy in place as well as an obesity care pathway for both adults and children.

Nationally the Shetland Isles has the highest proportion, with 15.5% of patients being obese, but there are also high levels in the Midlands, Wales, North East and parts of the South East.

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