One-fifth of four to five-year-olds in West Sussex are overweight or obese – around 1,700 children.
Figures presented to the county’s Health and Wellbeing Board showed the numbers were even higher for children in Year 6, aged ten and 11, with 2,300 having a weight problem.
While the West Sussex figures were slightly lower than the national average, public health consultant Jenny Hacker said:
“Just being average in the middle of an epidemic isn’t really good enough for us.
“There will be a number of children in every class who are overweight and obese. Perhaps the fewer of them the worse the stigma is. We need to go beyond the numbers and really get our act together in terms of healthy weight.”
The figures showed that excess weight and obesity was most prevalent in children in Arun and Crawley, while the problem was lowest in youngsters in Horsham.
Some sources suggested as many as 40,000 children aged two to 15 across the county have a weight problem.
In an attempt to tackle the issue, a healthy weight steering group will be launched in January, with the likes of schools nurses, caterers and psychologists working together with environmental health, parks and leisure teams to come up with a support and prevention agenda.
Board members made a number of suggestions such as providing fresh fruit at children and family centres, encouraging more supermarkets to put out free fruit for children, convincing hospitals to stop stocking sugary and fatty snacks.