A COLLABORATION between a number of health services across Barnsley has started after figures revealed that almost half of the town’s youngsters are classed as ‘unhealthily overweight’ when they leave primary schools.

The South Yorkshire Children and Young People’s Alliance - which supports youngsters across the borough - recently held a collaborative networking event to manage obesity for children and young people.

The programme of work aims to reduce health inequalities and improve outcomes for children and young people in Barnsley with a strong focus on ensuring early intervention and prevention.

NHS Digital figures show 25.9 per cent of year six pupils in Barnsley schools were obese last year.

Nearly eight per cent of those were classed as ‘severely obese’, which means they had a body mass index (BMI) in the top 0.4 per cent for a child’s age and sex.

It means the area has seen the largest rise in the proportion of older primary school student who are obese compared to before the Covid pandemic across the entirety of the country.

A total of 19.3 per cent of pupils were classed as obese in 2019/20, the latest period available with comparable data.

A further 14 per cent of children were also overweight, meaning 39.9 per cent of the borough’s youngsters are classed as ‘unhealthily overweight’ when they finish primary school.

Helen Stewart, officer for health improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the data ‘reaffirms the intrinsic link between obesity and poverty’.

She added: “We now find ourselves in a situation where our most vulnerable children are twice as likely to become obese, and subsequently be at a higher risk of chronic illnesses, mental health issues and even a shorter life span.

“It’s inherently wrong that these children can be placed at such a disadvantage before even leaving primary school.”

It’s hoped the NHS’ scheme will help reduce this figures significantly.

A spokesperson for South Yorkshire’s Integrated Care Board said: “One of the programme’s priorities is to work in partnership to reduce childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles which will be maintained into adulthood.

“We know children and young people who experience inequalities and live in poverty are more likely to be obese.

“It is vital they have access to services and social prescribing offers that best support their needs locally.

“There are many organisations across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, from statutory and voluntary sectors contributing to this ambition and have been coming together as part of the South Yorkshire Children and Young People’s Obesity Transformation Group forum sharing work and possible solutions to positively impact this agenda.”