Half of Suffolk overweight, report reveals

HALF of all people in Suffolk are overweight or obese, a shocking snapshot of the counties health reveals today.

Russell Claydon

HALF of all people in Suffolk are overweight or obese, a shocking snapshot of the counties health reveals today.

The grim fact emerged in the first 'lifestyle' survey of its kind to be carried out by the East of England Strategic Health Authority, who has promised to reverse some of the worryingly rising trends.

It paints a picture of high alcohol consumption, a reliance on large amounts of fatty and processed foods and a low intake of fruit and vegetables, which is set to cost the NHS large amounts over the coming years.

In Suffolk 14% of people were found to be obese, with 36% of them medically overweight, and 50% of people admitted they do not regularly eat their recommended five fruit or vegetables a day.

One in five people in the county (20%) also admitted to drinking harmful or hazardous amounts of alcohol each week, while the same number are reporting they do not get the recommended amount of exercise.

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Last night health chiefs warned of the ticking obesity timebomb in the region, which is set to explode and put huge strains on local NHS budgets.

The EADT revealed last month the treatment of unhealthy lifestyles is costing �10million a year in the county, with alarming forecasts the figure for treating obesity will rocket to �65million by 2015.

Sally Hogg, head of health improvement at NHS Suffolk, said: Sally Hogg, NHS Suffolk's head of health improvement partnerships, said: “We're fully aware of the rising levels of obesity in Suffolk - and the many health risks associated with it such as chronic heart disease, type two diabetes and mobility and joint problems.

“National initiatives such as Change4Life are aimed at tackling these issues head-on - and we're also taking action on a local level. This is why NHS Suffolk, Suffolk County Council and partner organisations last year launched Healthy Ambitions Suffolk.

“Driven by the Suffolk Strategic Partnership, this exciting county-wide partnership aims to help people in Suffolk lead healthier lifestyles, such as taking more exercise or improving their mental health, eating more healthily, including more fruit, vegetables and fibre, and cutting back on fatty foods.”

She added: “If we consider our smoking figures were at about 25% five years ago - and now they're at 17% thanks to our sustained efforts to reduce smoking, then by us all working together through Healthy Ambitions Suffolk we should be able to reduce obesity in the same way - and prevent people from becoming obese in the future.”

Dr Paul Cosford, regional director of public health at NHS East of England, who compiled the lifestyle report, 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.”

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

“As shown in the EPIC study carried out in Norfolk, enjoying a healthy lifestyle by eating five a day, taking moderate amounts of exercise, not smoking and reducing obesity, could add 14 years to your lifespan,” he added.