THOUSANDS of Hampshire children are leaving primary school obese, with hundreds more classed as severely obese. The latest figures obtained by the Local Government Association show 3,900 (29.4 per cent) 10- and 11-year-olds moved up to secondary education in the 2016/17 academic year overweight. Of these, 1,809 (13.6 per cent) were classed as overweight – up from 1,750 (13.1 per cent) the year before – while 2,091 (15.8 per cent) were obese, down 106 pupils – 2,197 (16.5 per cent). The figures also revealed that 343 children (2.59 per cent) in the county were classed as severely obese. Starting out in school, 3,520 (23 per cent) Hampshire Year R schoolchildren were of an unhealthy weight – 2,201 (14.4 per cent) overweight, 1,319 (8.6 per cent) obese, and 271 (1.77 per cent) severely obese. In contrast, 9,214 (69.5 per cent) of Year 6 pupils, along with 11,717 (76.5 per cent) of Year R children, were of healthy weight. In Southampton the percentage figures were similar. During the 2016/17 school year, 828 pupils (34.9 per cent) aged 10 and 11 were classed as not a healthy weight – down just one from the year before. This broke down into 316 students that were overweight (13.3 per cent) and 512 that were obese (21.6 per cent). 114 were classed as severely obese (4.81 per cent). In reception year, 393 (13.1 per cent) were overweight, 206 (10.2 per cent) were obese, with 74 (2.47 per cent) severely obese. This, the LGA warns, puts people at serious health risks, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer – obesity is the second biggest cause of cancer. Severe obesity can shorten a person’s life by 10 years – an equivalent loss to the effects of lifelong smoking. Across the country, figures show that 190,306 Year 6 children (34.2 per cent) were classed as overweight, obese or severely obese. For children in Year R, this figure was 142,235 (22.6 per cent). Councillor Patricia Stallard, county council member for public health, said: “I am concerned about the rising trend in childhood obesity and that is why tackling it is one of the council’s key public health priorities. “While there is no quick fix, our approach is to work with our partners, community based organisations, schools and many other settings to support children and families as early as possible, to make the most of opportunities to help children achieve a healthy weight.” The council added that it has been working directly with schools on healthy weight campaigns and also undertaken joint projects with partners – such as school nursing services and school ,meals services – to promote healthy eating. Southampton health boss councillor Dave Shields said: “Obesity is a national problem but Southampton City Council is committed to giving every child a good start in life and ensuring people of all ages live healthy independent lives. “We are tackling obesity locally by working in partnership to make healthy eating and physical activity easier for all. We’re addressing the issue in our schools with our newly-launched Healthy High 5 award scheme and by encouraging them to take part in the Golden Mile initiative, keeping children active during the school day.” Cllr Shields added that a Children and Young People’s Healthy Weight Plan has been passed by the council. This, the council says, delivers on its health and wellbeing strategy commitment to reduce childhood obesity and create a “healthy weight environment” in the city. He said: “Our approach includes working with employers, planners and our community partners to make it easier for children to eat healthily and be more active to reduce obesity. “This approach, alongside our cycling strategy, the ABP marathon, the HSBC UK Let’s Ride Southampton and other initiatives, will help make Southampton a healthier and more active place to live and work.” Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “These new figures on severely obese children, who are in the most critical overweight category, are a further worrying wake-up call for urgent joined-up action. “The UK is already the most obese nation in western Europe, with one in three 10 and 11-year-olds and one in five four and five-year-olds classed as overweight or obese, respectively. “Unless we tackle this obesity crisis, today’s obese children will become tomorrow’s obese adults whose years of healthy life will be shortened by a whole host of health problems including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. “Cuts to councils’ public health grants by government are having a significant impact on the many prevention and early intervention services carried out by councils to combat child obesity. This short-sighted approach risks causing NHS costs to snowball due to the ill health consequences of obesity in our younger generation. “Following the introduction of the sugar tax, we urge government to publish more details of its obesity strategy and to recognise councils’ key prevention role in tackling one of the greatest public health challenges this nation faces.”