Data shows Havering is one of London’s most overweight boroughs as council approves strategy

Havering is one of the most overweight boroughs in London, a stark council report reveals.

The data shows that one in five children aged between four and five years old are obese or overweight, as are two in five aged between ten and eleven.

Childhood obesity is rife in the capital, with Barking and Dagenham having the highest rate, with 31.7 per cent of Year 6 children being obese, followed by Newham and Westminster. Havering Council says their figures “look to get worse”.

A staggering 68 per cent of Havering adults over the age of 18 are obese, which is “significantly above” both London and England averages.

The Health Survey for England, conducted in 2021, estimated that just shy of 26 per cent of adults in the UK were obese, and a further 37.9 per cent were overweight.

The figures were presented to the cabinet last night on May 16, as part of a ‘healthy weight strategy’ that aims to eradicate childhood obesity within the next 20 years.

The strategy covers a wide range of tactics, including opening more sports facilities, making drinking water more publicly available, and working alongside local NHS trusts to promote better lifestyles.

The scheme also looks to ban adverts promoting food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar – known as HFSS – while enticing healthy-food outlets to the borough.

The council will focus on a specific strategy in Harold Hill, redeveloping the high street to “make the healthiest option the easiest”. A pilot “school superzone” has also been considered for Rainham, which would set up a 400m radius around a school wherein healthy living is encouraged.

Cycling has often been a focus of healthy living initiatives, and Havering has committed to installing new cycle routes across the districts.

Gillian Ford, the cabinet member for public health, said following the meeting: “Obesity and being overweight is everyone’s business as it is causing ill-health and cutting lives short, through a variety of complex reasons.

“We know obesity and being overweight can lead to a whole range of health problems, such as being more likely to develop type-2 diabetes, have high blood pressure, increased cholesterol and certain cancers.

“Our healthy weight strategy sets out a five year plan and a twenty year vision on how the borough will work together to take action at a number of levels.

“The strategy will help Havering join together and make it easier for residents to maintain a healthier weight.”

The council carried out a consultation between January and March, in which residents expressed strong support for making healthier food more readily available and restricting the prevalence of fast food in the high street.

Of the 656 polled, 461 (70 per cent) said it was difficult to maintain a healthy weight while 573 (87 per cent) said there were “negative attitudes” towards obesity.

Though members were generally supportive of the scheme, East Havering Residents’ Group leader Martin Goode warned it “will involve many more resources, which will involve finances”.

Havering Council is currently fighting a financial battle after accepting a £54million loan from central government in February, to cover a £32.5m black hole in its 2024/25 budget.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter

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