More than 65 per cent of adults in North Yorkshire are overweight – and the North Yorkshire Health and Wellbeing Board has launched a new strategy to tackle this obesity crisis.

The Board’s plans are outlined in a strategy called Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives. The strategy’s vision is “To inspire a healthy weight population” and goes on to explain how people in the county will be supported to eat more healthily and become more active.

Obesity can be linked to a wide range of physical and mental health issues, including an increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  It often has its roots in childhood eating and leisure habits – recent figures show that two in ten children aged four to five in North Yorkshire are overweight or obese, a figure that increases to three in ten by the age of 10 to 11 years.

“The new ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives’ strategy explains that obesity does not develop in isolation, and that the support we have from the people around us is essential to maintaining a healthy weight,” said County Councillor David Chance, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Stronger Communities and Public Health.

“Our ambition is to reduce obesity across the population of North Yorkshire by supporting people to manage their weight. We want to reduce the number of people of all ages who are overweight by 2026.

“Our challenge is to create the environment that supports us in developing and sustaining healthy eating and physical activity habits; this is not simply a health issue, nor a matter of individual choice.  This new strategy’s goals can only be delivered by the Health and Wellbeing Board and its partners working in tandem with other local and national strategies to tackle significant issues that affect obesity. Our approach to planning, promotion of active transport, and access to healthy foods are all part of the wider issues that need to be addressed.”

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire said, “ ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives’ builds on the work that the County Council is already doing to tackle the problem of obesity in young people and adults across the county.

“Being overweight or obese in childhood has consequences for health in both the short term and long term. The emotional and psychological effects of being overweight are often seen as the most immediate and serious by children themselves and include teasing by peers; low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

“Obese children are more likely to be absent from school due to illness and experience health-related consequences such as asthma and type 2 diabetes – and obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

“We are supporting better eating in school age children through our Healthy Choices advice and support service; and we have funded places at the annual MoreLife camp which helps young people who are battling with their eating habits to achieve – and maintain – a healthy weight, by providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to make positive and realistic change to their lifestyles.

“The County Council also funds free weight management programmes in each of the county’s seven districts to support people who want to improve their overall health and wellbeing.  These are available to anyone aged 18 or over with a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 25 after referral by their GP, health and social care professional or making a self-referral”.

North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards team is also working with takeaway businesses to tackle obesity by providing free ‘takeaway masterclasses’. Businesses attending are encouraged to promote healthy choice options on their menus and work towards gaining the County Council’s Healthier Choices Business Award.

The Health and Wellbeing Board will deliver the Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives strategy by working with its partners, including district and borough councils, clinical commissioning groups, the NHS, charities, community groups and private companies.

Councillor Chance added “We will work in partnership, through the leadership of the North Yorkshire Health and Wellbeing Board, to inspire a healthy weight population and achieve our ambition to reduce the number of people who are overweight in the county.

“Together we can be successful in supporting more people to eat more healthily and be more active so they can live longer, happier lives”.

The full Healthy Weight and Healthy Lives strategy document can be downloaded from www.nypartnerships.org.uk/healthylives