TREATING obesity, and the catalogue of conditions resulting from weight problems, is costing the NHS £31m each year in Swindon.

The figure was released in a report which will come before members of the council’s health overview and scrutiny committee tonight.

An estimated 27 per cent of adults in Swindon are deemed obese, compared with 24.2 per cent nationally. This is due to factors including ethnicity, limited education and the average age of the population.

The report says a higher proportion of people aged 55 to 64 – of residents aged 16 to 74 with no or low qualifications or of black ethnic origin than the rest of England – meant Swindon was more likely to have a larger share of obese people.

Obesity in children is also above average with 10.2 per cent in reception class compared with 9.3 per cent nationwide. The figure nearly doubles in year six with 19.5 per cent of all youngsters found to be obese as opposed to 18.9 per cent in the UK.

The council was unable to give more specific figures on how much obesity cost in the past.

Being overweight or obese does not only affect people’s ability to make the most of their lives but increases the risk of illnesses such as stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia.

This constant rise not only costs millions to the NHS but to social services and puts even more pressure on an already struggling local economy.

To reverse this trend, Swindon Council, along with voluntary groups, Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group and the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has launched the Swindon Healthy Weight strategy. The action plan targets adults and children and includes interventions aimed at prevention and treatment of obesity.

Earlier this month, the authority started the initiative with its Healthy Weight Awareness Week campaign.

Experts reached out to people struggling to maintain a healthy weight and promoted its health programmes such as Dietbusters, and MEND, a scheme aimed at obese or overweight children aged five to 16.

Cherry Jones, acting director of public health, said: “Tackling obesity is important to improve the health and wellbeing of local people as well as improve the local economy, through less time lost due to ill health and the costs of ill health to the NHS and social services.

“Achieving a healthy weight depends on factors in every part of life: the environment we live in, our workplace, school, social life, the people around us and the choices we make in what we eat and what we do.

“The Healthy Weight strategy aims to reduce obesity in Swindon. It looks in the widest context as to what can be done to support people to be more active and eat well.”

Emma Sperring, who heads the council’s MEND programme, said progress was being made in educating children from a young age about healthy eating and promoting fun exercise.

The ten-week scheme, which initially targeted five to 13-year-olds, recently opened a new module for teenagers up to 16.

The MEND groups teach overweight children and their parents simple nutritional facts and follows each session with 45 minutes of exercise.

Emma said: “The aim is to try to reduce obesity in children so they don’t become overweight in adulthood, which means they are less likely to be a burden on the NHS later on.

“Often we see that both their parents are overweight and we try to change that behaviour in both parents and children, which is quite complex.

“We find that half the families manage to maintain their weight after the programme and do not put on any more which is very positive.”