CHILDREN in less well-off areas of York are storing up major health problems for the future as figures show a clear link between poverty and obesity in the city.

The statistics for York appear to confirm comments made last week by junior Health Minister Anna Soubry, who said it was now possible to tell someone’s social background by their weight.

The latest figures show that in less well-off wards, such as Clifton and Hull Road, obesity rates run at 21.3 per cent of 11-year-olds and 7.9 per cent of five-year-olds.

In more affluent wards, such as Rural West York or Bishopthorpe, obesity rates are 13.8 per cent for those aged 11 and 4.7 per cent for five-year-olds.

Tackling health inequality is one of the five main strategies which the York Health and Wellbeing Board has committed itself to when it comes into existence this spring, taking over responsibility for public health in York from the local NHS trust.

The board meets this afternoon in the Guildhall to discuss its draft strategy for the next three years.

Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, its chairwoman, said: “It is very clear that childhood obesity, and adult obesity, are linked to socio-economic deprivation, of which poverty is a major contributor.

“Poverty is a significant driver of longer-term health inequalities because of the range of diseases like heart disease and diabetes that are caused by obesity. It is clear that there is a rise in the cost of healthier food, and not in junk food, and this is something the Government should address.

“However, the Government is not helping by relaxing the quality of school meals and they need to realise their part in this.”

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, City of York Council’s director of public health, said the Wellbeing Board’s Children’s and Young People’s Plan gave a commitment to “investing in early help to prevent costly and more intrusive, later interventions”.

He said: “This includes developing programmes of public health to promote exercise and healthy eating.

“Members of York’s Youth Council have been working with secondary schools in the city as food ambassadors to encourage eligible pupils to choose free school meals and to ensure tasty and healthy school meals attract more pupils.

“All 64 of York’s schools are engaged in the Healthy School Programme which focuses on key areas including health education, healthy eating, physical activity and emotional health and wellbeing – on which obesity can impact.

“Enhanced working in this field includes looking at healthy packed lunches and working with parents on healthier eating.

“The council is also working with local sports clubs to support applications for grants to target increased activity among 14- to 25-year-olds, while developing a new community stadium and supporting the University of York’s sports village to promote sport for all.”