CHILDHOOD obesity is the main issue that needs to be tackled in order to improve health in the district - according to Bradford Council’s Leader.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe was discussing the latest health figures for Bradford, including where the District is lagging behind, when she was asked what the most urgent issue that needed to be tackled was.

She said it was vital that more is done to reduce childhood obesity and get children living healthier lifestyles.

And she also highlighted the links between poverty and poor health.

Last week the Telegraph & Argus reported on the latest “health and wellbeing indicators” - which look at how Bradford is performing in key areas compared to previous years, and compared to similar cities and districts.

Areas where things have got worse in the past year included healthy life expectancy, the number of years a person born in Bradford can expect to live without health complications, and childhood obesity.

New figures show there are 21 areas, out of 41, that have been flagged as “red” - meaning things are getting worse compared to previous years or compared to areas similar to Bradford.

'Active Bradford' events helping more children to exercise regularly

Cllr Hinchcliffe, who is chair of the Bradford Health and Wellbeing Board, discussed the figures at a meeting of the Council’s Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee on Thursday.

She was asked which of the 21 health outcomes she would put “top of the list” in terms of priorities.

Cllr Hinchcliffe replied: “Child obesity. That is the one that is most pressing in my mind.

“Children grow up very quickly and every year that goes by without tacking the problem is a year lost.

“There is still work to be done and areas to improve as this statistic has gone up over time. We need to address it.

“We have Born in Bradford working on areas like this. In recent years we have also looked at planning regulations to prevent take-aways opening around schools and parks.

“All these issues are poverty issues, that is why it is so important we improve our economy.”

Bradford Council has a policy to prevent take-aways from opening within 400 metres of a school or other area that might attract young people, like a play area or leisure centre.

She said pressure on schools to meet education targets meant many were reducing sport, which improved physical health, and culture, which made a big difference on young people’s mental wellbeing.

Bradford’s bid for 2025 Capital of Culture could help turn things around, she told members.

She said: “Culture and sport is important, but they aren’t as present in the educational system as they used to be.

“Schools can get so worried about meeting education standards they feel they don’t have time for activities like this.

“That is why the Capital of Culture bid is important as it will help increase the amount of cultural activities young people take part in. It will provide them with confidence and skills. We know access to the arts improves people’s mental health.”

She said that in many areas the Council was limited in what it could achieve, adding: “There are a lot of national bodies that have a lot more influence over what happens in Bradford than I do.”

She referred to the Daily Mile as one scheme that can help improve young people’s health. A number of schools in Bradford encourage their pupils to run or walk a mile on school grounds each day.

Cllr Hinchcliffe said she would like to see all primary schools in the District do this or a similar activity. She added: “It can be any physical activity - it just needs to be part of the daily routine.

“We don’t control all schools,but we would like to see this happen.”

Cllr Hinchcliffe said she sees most of Bradford’s regeneration projects as ultimately being efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of the District’s residents.

She said: “It all comes down to poverty. If we get more investment, more jobs, there will be less poverty and people will be able to live healthier lives.”

Councillor Paul Godwin (Lab, Keighley West) pointed out that many people in his ward felt they did not have safe places they could get out and exercise in, such as woodland or parks.

Sarah Muckle, director of public health on the Council, said work was being done with the Council’s planning department to either create new public outdoor areas or improve access to existing areas that people currently feel are out of bounds.