MORAY has been urged to get more active in a bid to help stem rising levels of obesity, diabetes and other associated health risks.
Recent figures have shown a 4% increase in the number of Primary 1 children in Moray classed as obese or severely obese.
Moray also has one of the worst rates of adult obesity in Scotland at 10.9%, with the area rated 33rd out of 37 local health authorities.
Tracey Gervaise, public health lead for Moray, said that physical activity was the key to improving people’s health.
“If bottled as medication, it could be labelled a wonder drug or miracle cure,” she told members of the Moray Community Health and Social Care Partnership Committee.
Moray has the highest rate of adult obesity of the three Grampian community health partnerships. Moray’s rate of 10.9% was much higher than the Scottish average of 8.63%.
In Moray, Buckie and New Elgin were two areas of higher deprivation where child obesity levels were above the NHS Grampian and Scottish average in 2010-11, said Mrs Gervaise.
Official figures showed that 5% of five-year-old children in P1 in Buckie were classed as severely obese, and 4.8% in New Elgin. The average for Grampian and Scotland as a whole was 4.1%.
Both areas in Moray were below the national average of 20% when it came to P1 children classed as overweight, at 16.4% in Buckie and 19% in New Elgin.
There has also been a worrying increase in the number of people on the diabetes and obesity registers in Moray.
In 2010-11, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in Moray was 4,339, compared with 3,896 two years earlier. A lot of people with diabetes remain undiagnosed.
The obesity register has seen a similar increase, from 8,478 people in 2008-09 to 9,730 in 2010-11.
Mrs Gervaise said that the risks associated with not increasing the physical activity of the population are significant for the health and social care system.
“The excessive consumption of food is not balanced by an active lifestyle,” she said, “and an important secondary issue becomes the lack of physical activity and the population’s shift to a more sedentary lifestyle.”
Mrs Gervaise highlighted a number of initiatives in Moray designed to promote physical activity across a range of groups and ages. These include street football and midnight football for younger people; the Walk Jog Run Moray group; Be Active Life Long (BALL) groups; Outfit Moray; cycle paths and walking routes promoted by Moray Council, and a range of initiatives within the NHS.
Mrs Gervaise said that physical activity could take many forms, including walking, cycling, active play, dancing, gardening and organised sport. She said that people had to take more responsibility for their health and wellbeing.