More than one in three children in Hampshire are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, shock new figures have revealed.

That’s a jump from the one in five children who are overweight or obese when they start school and the county’s top health boss has warned urgent action is needed.

The director of public health’s annual report focused this year on children’s obesity and overweight.

Across Hampshire, the report said more children are overweight and obese between starting reception and leaving Year 6.

According to the report, 21 per cent of children in reception and 32 per cent of children in Year 6 were overweight or very overweight in 2022/23.

The report also highlights that children living in deprived areas are “disproportionately” more likely to suffer obesity and overweight.

Despite the signs that show levels of obesity and overweight are decreasing in reception, Year 6 children show no improvement. Levels remain higher post-pandemic, showing a worrying and worsening trend.

For that reason, Hampshire County Council aims to focus its “efforts” between the ages of five and 11 to halt the steep rise.

In the report, the county’s director of public health Simon Bryant said that if not mitigated, the number of children overweight or obese in reception might rise to almost 25.3 percent by 2040 and 37.3 percent for Year 6 pupils.

Mr Bryant said: “If we fail to act now, carrying on as we are, levels of childhood overweight and obesity are projected to rise for this and the next generation. Several studies show that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in childhood overweight and obesity, so the forecasts which were calculated prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, are likely to be much higher. Now is the time for urgent and decisive action.”

Mr Bryant said that it is a very sensitive issue that “is not about shape but about health”.

“It is about how to enable people to have that conversation. We want people to have a healthy weight.”

Research shows children who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience other associated physical health conditions, for example, breathing difficulties, bone and joint problems, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and dental decay.

It also shows children and young individuals who are obese have five times greater chances of being obese in their adulthood than those who were not overweight during their childhood.

This poses a significant threat to their health as it increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancers and reduces the number of years people live in good health.

The report said the annual cost of obesity in Hampshire could be as much as £540 million, with a wider cost to society through loss of work productivity and social care needs.