Childhood obesity rates in Wirral reveal stark divide

New data shows some areas see 46 times higher rates of obesity in four to five-year-olds than others in Wirral.

The figures published by the Wirral Intelligence Service from NHS Digital Data highlights the dramatic divide in health issues between the east and west of Wirral. The highest rate of obesity among children in reception year was in Rock Ferry at 14% compared to just 0.3% in Heswall.

In the Birkenhead parliamentary constituency, the average rate of obesity at this age was 12.7%, more than twice the rate seen in reception-age children in Wirral West.

With children 10-11 years old, rates of obesity in Birkenhead were nearly 2.5 times higher than the lowest areas in Hoylake and Meols. Among adults, the difference was less dramatic between areas with the highest rate in Upton only being 1.6 times higher than the lowest in West Kirby.

However, compared to other local authorities within the Liverpool City Region, the Wirral is the second lowest with an average rate of 23.1% and is lower than the England average.

Wirral Council has an ongoing project to address high levels of obesity being seen in the borough which looks at supporting residents to lose weight, become more active, and improve wellbeing.

The scheme called the Active Wirral Wellbeing Weight Management Project recently won a national award. It works with a local community interest company called One Wirral that offers nutritional advice, physical activity sessions, and one-to-one guidance.

According to Wirral Council, 84% of people taking part reported improvements with many of these being significant.

Cllr Janette Williamson, the council’s Adult Social Care and Public Health committee chair, said, “It is fantastic to see the hard work of this team rewarded with national acknowledgement of the incredible impact they have had. They have been tackling the shocking variation in health outcomes – and ultimately life expectancy – between affluent and deprived areas in Wirral.

She added, “This is an issue we are absolutely committed to addressing as part of our Health and Wellbeing Strategy and the wider Wirral Plan and we are very proud that it is being seen as an exemplar nationally.

“This vital work is focused on providing the right support to people, in a way that is convenient and tailored to their needs and making great progress in supporting Wirral residents who need it.”

The council also has a sport and physical activity strategy which looks at “reducing the stark health inequalities that exist between different parts of the borough and improving the life chances for all.”

A report for an upcoming tourism and leisure committee meeting said the social value generated by the council’s leisure centres was just under £10m.

This figure includes an estimated saving of nearly £2m in health and social care costs due to improved physical and mental health as well as an average social value per person of £100.

Image: Austin Schmid

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