MORE than one in 10 Wigan infants are obese and just over half are ready for school when they start reception, sobering new research shows.
A report published by the National Child Bureau (NCB) revealed 11.4 per cent of the borough’s four and five-year-olds are obese and 55.4 per cent have achieved a good level of development after their first year in the classroom.
The report also shows 34.5 per cent of five-year-olds in Wigan, a total of 1,359 youngsters, have developed tooth decay and 337 children aged between zero and four have been admitted to hospital for injuries.
Although Wigan is placed 50th out of the 150 local authorities surveyed for the extent of deprivation in the borough the authorities have emphasised their commitment to improving youngster’s health in the wake of the report’s findings.
Prof Kate Ardern, director of public health, said: “Working with Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) and our other partners across health and education, we remain committed to improving child health in Wigan, to make sure every child has the best possible start, and we have a number of initiatives and campaigns which tackle these issues.
“We have a programme encouraging children between birth and 17 to adopt healthy lifestyles and this also supports their families.
“This service, which we commission WLCT to run, includes a specialist weight management programme, a programme in primary schools promoting nutrition and exercise, and a tooth brushing scheme to prevent tooth decay.
“We have also launched our Healthy Living Dentistry programme which supports local dentists to further improve the wellbeing of our children.
“This is a great programme and we’ll be taking it to all early years settings to increase the number of families accessing dental health and increasing the uptake of the Baby Teeth do Matter Scheme.”
Public health programmes have worked with 500 parents on introducing solid food to youngsters and helped more than 8,500 youngsters in early years and primary school classes on developing healthy lifestyles since September 2013.
In addition, 700 children have been helped by a specialist weight management programme and hundreds more youngsters have been encouraged to develop good dental health by regularly brushing their teeth properly.
The NCB report makes grim reading for the North West, with the region recording consistently poor results in all four health outcomes compared to wealthier areas such as the South East.
The region has 19 per cent more obese four and five-year-olds than the South East, 43 per cent more five-year-olds with tooth decay and 11 per cent fewer children achieving a good level of development by the end of reception class.
Health chiefs said they were working hard to help Wiganers overcome often-difficult backgrounds and encouraged residents to live healthy lifestyles.
Dr Tim Dalton, local GP and chair of NHS Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We work closely with our colleagues at the council and those delivering our local NHS services to understand the health needs of our children and to provide high-quality services that give them the best start to life possible.
“As a borough with areas of high levels of deprivation, the needs of our children and families can be complex and we work hard to help them overcome the challenges that children in these circumstances can sometimes face.
“To keep our children healthy, we encourage all parents to work with their health visitor and make sure your child gets the necessary screening, vaccinations and development reviews. This helps the NHS to spot and manage any issues that might be developing and make sure they get the care and treatment they need.
“Health visitors can also advise on the nutrition that your baby needs to help you keep your baby the right weight. As your baby grows in to a child, it is important that they continue to eat healthy food: sugary drinks, sweets, fatty foods and chocolate should all be avoided.”