THE ‘tide must finally be turned’ in order to boost Barnsley residents’ health after shocking new figures revealed two-thirds of adults in the town are now classed as overweight.
Figures from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities show 70.9 per cent of over 18s in Barnsley were overweight or living with obesity by the end of last year.
Medics class overweight as having a body mass index between 25 and 29.9, and obese as 30 to 39.9.
An estimated 38.3 per cent of Barnsley adults were obese an increase from 35.2 per cent in 2015.
About 36,000 people in the town have associated health issues, with 55 deaths attributed to heart disease in Barnsley per month the equivalent of someone dying every 14 hours.
Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, said the government must make it easier and cheaper to buy healthier food and drinks to bring rates down.
“These new figures cover a period during which the government had an ‘oven ready’ obesity strategy that could have helped prevent the continued rise in obesity rates, yet failed to enact it, and now we are reaping the consequences,” she added.
“This government must make it easier, cheaper and more appealing to buy healthier food and drinks, to help finally turn the tide on obesity.”
Barnsley’s figures are much higher than the national overweight average of 63.8 per cent and obesity rate of 25.9 per cent.
All of the 21 wards in Barnsley have a higher rate of obesity than England’s rate, while the percentage of adults in the town who achieve 150 minutes of physical activity per week stands at 60.9 per cent, which health bosses also say is a concern due to the correlation between inactivity and excess weight.
Barnsley Council became the first local authority in the north of England and the first town in the country to implement restrictions on advertising junk food in a bid to force change from an early age last year.
However, Barnsley has still seen a larger rise in the rate of children finishing primary school obese than almost anywhere else in the country, with figures showing over a quarter of year six pupils being classed as obese, and 7.6 per cent severely so.
Julia Burrows, the council’s executive director of public health and communities, said: “Tackling obesity is a long-term health challenge for us, but something we are committed to.
“We know that obesity is more common amongst the most deprived groups in society, that’s why we are working hard to achieve our ambition that every person in Barnsley has access to good quality, local, affordable and nutritious food, no matter where in the borough they live, and regardless of personal circumstance or income.
“We also want Barnsley to be a place where healthy choices are the easiest choices.
“We launched the four-year Barnsley Food Plan in 2022, which has been co-developed between our public health service and Good Food Barnsley CIC, with input from a wide range of food-related services and organisations across public, private and voluntary sectors in Barnsley.
“This includes improving access to healthy food, and supporting people to develop knowledge, interest, and skills in relation to food, cooking, and nutrition.
“Physical activity is one of the best ways to help maintain a healthy weight, and we have the Active in Barnsley Strategic Plan, delivered in a partnership including BPL, Barnsley College, Age UK, Yorkshire Sport Foundation and others to help make physical activity a part of daily life at school, at work or in your community.”