Task force to focus on growing obesity problem in rural areas

A TASK group is being set up to tackle an obesity problem that is blighting lives across rural North Yorkshire.

Ryedale District Council is joining forces with the primary care trust, NHS North Yorkshire and York, to launch a review of the soaring levels of obesity, where children and young people are particularly affected.

The study will be conducted through the council's influential scrutiny committee and will look at ways of encouraging a healthier and more active lifestyle for the area's residents.

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The council's head of transformation, Clare Slater, said: "We want to look at what we are doing already, but also what else can be done to try and tackle the issue of obesity.

"We know Ryedale is not alone and it is a national problem, and we are aware that there has been some success in tackling obesity in the district after analysing the most recent statistics.

"But more needs to be done, and that is why the scrutiny review has been launched. We are aware that children are often affected, but the research will look at all age groups."

Mrs Slater added that work to help people achieve a healthier weight was being led by the Ryedale Healthy Weight Active Lives Group, promoted by NHS North Yorkshire and York.

The Yorkshire Post revealed last autumn that soaring levels of childhood obesity in the Ryedale area had raised concerns that indulgent parents were putting the future health of their children in jeopardy.

Health chiefs said there was a growing risk that parents were "killing with kindness" by treating their children to expensive yet poor diets and purchasing computer game consoles, TVs and DVD players which fail to encourage a more active lifestyle.

A campaign was launched last year by the county's primary care trust, NHS North Yorkshire and York, in an attempt to boost exercise among eight- to 13-year-olds in Ryedale.

While poor diets and social deprivation have been blamed for childhood obesity in the past, there is growing evidence to suggest that more affluent lifestyles can also have a significant impact on obesity levels.

In Ryedale, the level of childhood obesity is four per cent higher than the national average.