HEALTH chiefs are vowing to battle the bulge after shock figures revealed the number of Wearside youngsters who were obese.
A report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for 2010-11 showed 21.9 per cent of 11-year-old pupils in Wearside are dangerously overweight – almost three per cent above the national average.
Reception age children are also more obese than average, with 10.2 per cent of five-year-olds carrying too much weight.
The numbers classed as merely overweight do not make for better reading.
There were 0.2 per cent more overweight pupils in Year Six in Sunderland than there are nationally, while 13.7 per cent of reception children were classed as overweight – 0.5 per cent above the average.
Pam Lee, public health consultant for NHS South of Tyne and Wear, working on behalf of Sunderland Teaching PCT, said: “Preventing children becoming overweight and obese is a key strategic priority for us and we are working with our partners to do all we can to address the issue.
“We have many schemes in place which we hope will continue to increase the amount of pupils who fall within the National Child Measurement Programme’s ‘healthy weight’ classification, impact on the obesity and overweight figures and contribute to improve people’s life expectancy, as well as quality of life.
“We continue to take a preventative approach through the Food in Schools programme, which concentrates on ensuring that children and young people have access to healthy and nutritious school meals.
“We also support the Healthy Schools programme to give children and young people the skills and knowledge to make healthy food choices and promote the importance of regular exercise.
“We are also training more staff to address weight issues by working with families with children under five years old, helping raise awareness of portion size and the nutritional needs of young children.
“Parents are advised of suitable programmes in the letter they receive following their child being measured in the National Childhood Measurement Programme.
“Families who want further information can talk to the school nurse who is contactable via the child’s school.”
Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, Councillor John Kelly added: “There are a number of long established initiatives in place across all our schools to promote healthy eating and to encourage exercise .
“We are always looking to develop these.”