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Thetford gets £900,000 to fight obesity

PUBLISHED: 09:27 11 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:19 07 July 2010

THETFORD has been named among nine places nationally to win a chunk of a £30m pot to tackle obesity.

Thetford has been given £900,000 over three years by the Department of Health to encourage health, wellbeing, exercise and diet.

THETFORD has been named among nine places nationally to win a chunk of a £30m pot to tackle obesity.

The town has been given £900,000 over three years by the Department of Health to encourage health, wellbeing, exercise and diet. And the ideas for going about it could include setting up a community-style farm on the outskirts for people to help run.

Other areas taking part in health secretary Alan Johnson's “healthy towns” programme include Tower Hamlets in London, Manchester, Middlesbrough and Sheffield.

Mr Johnson launched the healthy towns initiative on Monday and warned that, unless action was taken, nine out of 10 British adults and two-thirds of children would be overweight or obese by 2050.

Figures revealed last month showed that, in 2007, the estimated cost to the NHS in Norfolk of obesity-related diseases was £97.9m, a figure projected to soar to £121m in 2015. Thetford's adult obesity rate is higher than Norfolk and national averages and its life expectancy for men and women is lower than the rest of the county and nationally. But council bosses say the cash has not been given because of any particular problem with obesity.

Trevor Holden, Breckland Council's chief executive, said the town's expansion plan - of 6,000 to 9,000 homes, or 20,000 new people, over 20 years - left it ideally placed to make a long-lasting impact on existing and emerging communities. He added: “It is about prevention rather than cure.”

Martin Seymour, NHS Norfolk's health improvement manager, who had been involved in the bid for Thetford, said he hoped the cash could help to address inequalities that meant people were more susceptible to diseases. Factors included higher smoking and lower physical activity levels, poor housing and low income. He thought programmes would need to be targeted at particular people and areas for the scheme to work.

The initiative will target migrant workers and young people, through walking and cycling; the elderly, through a green gym project, with people taking part in environmental projects or working on allotments; and the most deprived estates of the town, through nutrition and food.

The first year will see a tenth of the funds being released for a business case to be put forward. This will include identifying the town's needs and launching projects such as Walking for Health. The new initiative was launched with a Walk for Health in Thetford's riverside area.

Thetford's bid was one of 150 submitted to the government. But the national project has been criticised by Norfolk MP and Lib Dem shadow health secretary Norman Lamb, who said: “Real, long-term progress on tackling obesity will only be made when ministers let go of their paralysing grip on the NHS.”

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