New data unveils a concerning reality in Hampshire, with over 60% of adults and almost one in five children aged 10 to 11 classified as overweight, obese, or severely obese, prompting Hampshire County Council to launch a comprehensive initiative.
Recent data has exposed a weight crisis in Hampshire, revealing that over three in five adults fall into the categories of overweight, obese, or severely obese. The issue extends beyond adults, with nearly 20% of children between the ages of 10 and 11 finding themselves in these concerning categories, according to a report released by the government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.
The report highlights a troubling trend, with 2,815 children aged 10 to 11 suffering from obesity or severe obesity in Hampshire during the 2022/23 period. This indicates a concerning upward trajectory, suggesting that the situation is “deteriorating,” as per the report.
The adult demographic, those aged 18 and above, faces a significant challenge, with the percentage of individuals classified as overweight or obese in 2021/22 surpassing an alarming 64%. The report emphasizes that while individuals from all walks of life exceed a healthy weight, social disadvantage plays a pivotal role, affecting some population groups more than others.
A disconcerting finding reveals that the prevalence of excess weight is 11% higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas in England. The impact of social and economic factors on health is undeniable, and addressing these disparities is crucial for any comprehensive strategy to combat obesity.
Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Hampshire County Council has unveiled an ambitious plan aimed at encouraging takeaway restaurants to enhance the healthiness of their food offerings. The plan includes the introduction of a new award for businesses that proactively contribute to promoting healthier food choices.
The NHS underlines the severe health risks associated with being overweight or obese, including chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, stroke, and asthma. The ongoing pandemic, rising cost of living, and the impact of poor food choices driven by economic constraints have all played a role in the alarming rise in weight-related issues, according to health authorities.
During a recent meeting of Hampshire’s Health and Wellbeing Board on December 7, it was revealed that the levels of obesity in the county are not uniform, highlighting disparities across different areas. Health experts from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board noted challenges in providing fresh food to vulnerable individuals who rely on food banks, citing fuel costs as a significant barrier.
Hampshire County Council health officer highlighted the need to address the environmental factors influencing individuals’ weight. In the most deprived areas of Hampshire, people reportedly have four times more takeaways than those in more affluent areas, where better fresh food choices are available.
In a move towards a healthier food environment, a Hampshire-wide healthier food award is set to be launched in 2024. This award will be open to food premises such as caterers, restaurants, and takeaways at no cost to the businesses. The aim is not to discourage takeaways but to improve the nutritional quality of the food they offer.
“We don’t want to halt takeaways, but we can enhance their food offerings,” stated the health officer, reflecting the council’s commitment to finding a balance between consumer choices and public health.
The Healthy Weight Strategy 2022/26, a comprehensive plan to combat the rising tide of obesity, seeks collaboration across various sectors, including education centers, healthcare, community spaces, and general practitioners. However, a councillor raised an important consideration during the discussion.
The councillor suggested that the definition of a healthy weight should account for individuals dealing with underweight food disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Drawing attention to the significant number of people grappling with underweight issues, they emphasized the importance of a holistic approach that addresses both ends of the weight spectrum.
“It is straightforward to focus on the element of being overweight. We do have a significant number of people who are underweight. For some of those, it is also a form of body shame,” noted the councillor.
As Hampshire County Council takes proactive steps to curb the obesity epidemic, the challenge lies not only in promoting healthier choices but also in fostering an inclusive and nuanced approach that considers the diverse range of factors influencing individuals’ weight and overall well-being. The upcoming Hampshire-wide healthier food award marks a tangible step towards a healthier future, encouraging businesses to play a pivotal role in the collective effort to combat weight-related issues.