Measures to tackle childhood obesity in Blackpool are making an impact with the latest figures showing the number of 10 and 11-year-olds who are overweight has reduced.
There is also a small reduction among four and five-year-olds.
Campaigns including encouraging parents to walk their children to school, advice on healthier packed lunches and persuading children to give up fizzy drinks are attributed as making a difference.
The council’s free school breakfast scheme for primary schools is also described as helping children get into the habit of regular healthy eating.
But health chiefs have warned there is still a long way to go.
Further initiatives could include increasing public access to fresh drinking water and using planning powers to control the opening of take-aways near schools and parks.
Figures from 2016/17, contained in a report updating councillors on Blackpool’s Healthy Weight Strategy, show 25.7 per cent of reception-age children in the town are overweight or obese compared to 26.5 per cent the previous year.
This remains above the national average of 22.6 per cent.
Among Year 6 pupils, which is the last year of primary school, 34.3 per cent of children are overweight or obese, down from 40 per cent the previous year bringing the figure in line with the national average of 34.2 per cent.
The report says while ‘we need to be cautious as this is one year’s figures’, a lot of work is being done across Blackpool to reverse the obesity trend.
Blackpool Better Start, which works with pre-school children and families in the town’s most deprived areas, says the issue is being addressed right from babyhood.
Clare Law, senior development manager at Blackpool Better Start, said: “Blackpool Better Start is working with the community to develop our strategy on diet and nutrition, and we believe it is this co-production that will have a significant impact on changing health outcomes for the youngest children in Blackpool and their families.
“Before developing services, it is crucial that we understand why there is a higher than national average level of obesity in the town.
“Understanding the context in which our families are living is very important to how we shape the services that will be developed over the next 12 months.
“The key areas we are addressing are improving maternal diet and nutrition, supporting pregnant women to be a healthy weight during the transition to parenthood, infant feeding, supporting parents with the introduction of complementary foods, and being active families.
“We are also examining the relationship between early adverse childhood experiences and food, as we believe this may be a significant root cause of weight gain in some of our adult population.
“We are working in partnership with Public Health, the police, the local authority and the NHS to deliver these services.
“A healthy diet and good nutrition during pregnancy and the first four years of life are vitally important for a child’s growth, development and long term health.”
Coun Amy Cross, cabinet member for adult services and health, said: “The most recent Year 6 statistics are very good news.
“Obesity, particularly amongst children is an issue.
“It is vital our young people are aware and learn more about healthy lifestyle choices so that now and in the future they can benefit from the decisions that they start making at an early age.
“As the first local authority to adopt the Local Authority Healthy Weight Declaration in 2016 we are committed to tackle obesity and promoting healthier ways of life.
“There are a huge range of initiatives and projects being delivered by ourselves and several partners that are helping achieve these goals.
“Some great examples include the work being undertaken in schools with parents and children taking part in sessions discussing how to create healthy lunch boxes, the healthy eating cooking programmes, free school breakfasts, Walk to School projects and the Give up Loving Pop (Gulp) campaigns.
“Another fantastic initiative is our free family healthy lifestyles programme ‘Making Changes’ for children aged four to 11 and their families who want to be a healthy weight.
“This offers free personal support, activities and weekly sessions packed with advice on how to feel great. “
To register visit www.blackpool.gov.uk/MakingChanges or call 01253 478194.
The work going on in Blackpool comes as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is considering banning junk food advertising across the entire Transport for London (TfL) network.
Mr Khan, says he wants to tackle the “ticking time bomb” of child obesity in the capital.
Measures to tackle obesity among all age groups in Blackpool include:
++ Protecting children from junk food advertising by controlling billboards near schools and give-aways at family events.
++ Exploring the possibility of increasing public access to fresh drinking water.
++ Supporting healthy eating by encouraging caterers at events, including at the Winter Gardens, to provide healthy menus.
++ Considering financial support for traders such as greengrocers and co-operatives in deprived areas, such as the community farm at @thegrange on Grange Park which secured Big Lottery funding.
++ Using planning powers to control the spread of take-aways near schools and parks.
++ Promoting the GULP (Give up loving pop) campaign in schools to encourage children to have fewer fizzy drinks.
++ Reducing the availability of sugary drinks, for example through vending machines which have already been removed from council offices.
++ Promoting exercise with walk to school projects, and more cycling and walking routes for all residents.
++ Helping council staff to be healthier - signs in town hall offices including Bickerstaffe House encourage workers to use the stairs instead of taking the lift.
++ Sessions with parents including advice on healthy lunch boxes.
++ The launch of the Healthier Choices Award to recognise businesses which make changes such as providing smaller takeaway boxes or reduced fat sauces.