OBESITY-related admissions at West Middlesex Hospital have leapt 2,600 per cent in the last five years, the Chronicle can reveal.
The hospital treated 216 patients diagnosed as overweight last year, up from just eight in 2007/8, a Freedom of Information request by the paper showed.
Of those, 58 per cent were women and, despite the borough’s historic problems with childhood obesity, fewer than 10 were aged 18 or under.
Hounslow’s ever-expanding waistlines have been blamed on the proliferation of fast food outlets and our growing reliance on technology. But as the summer weather heralds the usual display of excess flesh on our high streets, efforts to tighten the borough’s belt straps are being ramped up.
Open-air fitness classes, healthy cooking lessons and advice on reading supermarket food labels are just some of the free activities being organised to fight the flab.
Even babies still in the womb are being targeted, through ‘bump ‘n’ me’ lifestyle sessions tailored for pregnant women.
Alex Russell, a dietitian at Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare (HRCH) NHS Trust, has spent the last two years helping people shed the pounds. She runs the Weigh2Lose programme, a 12-week course offering practical tips on improving your diet and exercise levels, which has helped more than 175 people in the last year.
"We’re becoming less active as we rely more on technology, and it seems like there’s a fried chicken shop on every street corner, but the hectic lifestyles people lead means they always have an excuse," she said. "However, there’s a growing awareness of the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other conditions linked with obesity, which is making people think about their weight."
The course looks at the underlying reasons for weight gain, like comfort eating and busy work schedules, and offers simple steps to address them.
These range from desk-based exercises and quick and healthy packed lunch ideas to new hobbies to stop people gorging themselves in front of their TVs.
In Hounslow, one of the big challenges is encouraging the large south Asian population to change their traditionally fat-laden diet by cutting down on cooking oil and grilling rather than frying.
As for the proliferation of fast food outlets in the borough, Ms Russell believes restricting their growth is not the answer.
"If you tell people they can’t have something, they want it more. You need to empower people to make their own, informed decisions about their health," she said.
Ms Russell’s group classes are just part of HRCH’s healthy lifestyle programme, which also includes one-to-one sessions with health trainers.
Meanwhile, park fitness classes and cookery lessons in some of the borough’s most deprived estates are among the services being offered by community groups and charities. It’s too early to say what difference all this will make.
The percentage of people in Hounslow exercising at least once a week has improved slightly in recent years, according to the latest Sports England survey, from 33.1 per cent in 2005/6 to 34.8 per cent in 2012/13.
But with 23.4 per cent of the borough’s 10-year-olds still classed as obese, compared with a national average of 19 per cent, according to the council’s own figures, there’s a long way to go yet.
* For details of Weigh2Lose and other healthy lifestyle programmes in Hounslow, call 020 8630 3386 or email HRCH.email@example.com. For more about other fitness activities across the borough, visit www.getactivelondon.com/hounslow .