A plan to tackle rising obesity levels and falling exercise rates in the county has been approved by Shropshire Council’s cabinet.

The council says its “Healthier Weight Strategy” will improve the health of the county’s residents – with a focus on inequality and poverty as key barriers to healthier living.

Government statistics show that 67% of the county’s population are overweight or obese and that over half of the county’s children are not getting enough exercise, while 14% of households in Shropshire are now struggling with food poverty.

A report presented to cabinet added that there is a “disproportionate impact of excess weight and its consequences” on the most hard-up individuals and families.

“Obesity levels have increased exponentially over recent decades because of changes to the environment within in which we live, work and play,” read the report.

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“Without improving access to healthier food choices and opportunities for individuals to be physically active in their day to day lives obesity levels are predicted to further increase with ever more detrimental consequences for the health of future populations.

“Given its strong association with poverty obesity impacts disproportionately on more deprived communities, in particular affecting children. Shropshire has both a lower income per capita and a higher prevalence of obesity than the England average.”

Shropshire Council’s wide-ranging strategy sets out six strategic objectives for the plan, including steps to reduce food poverty, increase opportunities for activity and working with schools and nurseries to improve education around healthy weight.

Among the recommendations are plans to maximise household incomes by “increasing awareness of the level of unclaimed benefits”, adding that lower income residents spend higher proportion of their income on food and often find healthy options unaffordable.

The stgrategy also aims to inform planning decisions, with improving access to healthy food through development planning and improving access

to healthy food shops and community growing initiatives also listed as objectives.

“This 2023 –2028 Healthier Weight Strategy sets out our system-wide approach and priorities to improve health and promote healthier weight among the Shropshire population,” the report added.

“Our ambition is to ensure Shropshire residents have the opportunity to eat  healthy, nutritious food and enjoy physical activity in a way that best suits them.

“The Healthier Weight Strategy together with a high-level action plan sets out our commitment to work with partners across the system including health, education, transport, planning and businesses, to support our population to live in a way which allows them to enjoy the physical and mental wellbeing benefits  of eating healthily and moving more. ”

Shropshire Council’s cabinet approved the adoption of the strategy, which will run through until 2028.