HUNDREDS of children in the borough are being classed as overweight or obese – and the numbers are only increasing with age.

A quarter of children aged four or five years old were found to be struggling with their weight in 2018 and by the ages of ten or eleven, this rose to more than a third.

Obesity among adults – despite falling slightly in recent years – continues to exceed regional and national averages.

Local hospitals also saw record levels of obesity-related admissions over a four-year period, increasing from 1,755 patients in 2013/14 to 8,915 in 2017/18.

Wigan Council’s has admitted its past approach has failed to make a significant impact, with "limited evidence" of reaching the people that need them the most.

But its director of public health, Professor Kate Ardern, says things are moving in the right direction with a "huge uptake" in weight loss and fitness schemes for residents of all ages.

“Our new strategy has been developed with a vision to improve health outcomes for all adults by reducing obesity and this means understanding the needs of individuals and supporting them how best we can,” said Prof Ardern.

“We recognise how important it is to instil these healthy habits in children and young people and that by doing so at an early age will mean they’re more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle into adult life.”

More than 22,000 adults have signed up to Lose Weight Feel Great, a council-run programme which has had ‘life-changing results’ for many people.

And around 14,000 children in primary schools and nurseries across the borough are now doing The Daily Mile – running a mile at least once a day in the playground.

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Prof Ardern said: “It’s about equipping people with the right knowledge, skills and tools so they can have a long, healthy life.  

 “Not only does this have a huge impact on people’s physical health but on their mental health too.

“As part of The Deal we’re committed to ensuring residents of all ages lead active and healthy lives in a way that is suited to them.”

A count of children taken in 2018 found that 952 children aged four or five – 26.3 per cent – and 1,355 of ten and 11-year-olds – 36.3 per cent – were overweight or obese.

This is marginally higher than the North West average of 35.9 per cent and England average of 34.3 per cent.

Adult overweight and obesity levels in Wigan fell from 71.2 per cent in 2016/17 to 68.7 per cent in 2017/18.

But Prof Ardern says hospital admissions for a primary diagnosis of obesity and obesity-related bariatric surgery have been "relatively stable" over the years, and that any fluctuations were "likely down to improved reporting" of data.