THE elected politician in charge of health across Worcestershire has admitted the childhood obesity battle is far from won - despite encouraging figures.

Councillor Marcus Hart has has likened the problem of overweight youngsters to smoking, saying it could take decades to fully change today's sedentary lifestyles.

His call has been backed up by other politicians in the county, who say they "despair" over young people not exercising enough.

Figures out in December showed the county is starting to win its high-profile battle with the bulge, with 32 per cent of year six children being classed as either overweight or obese, compared to 33.5 per cent last year.

But almost one in three 10 and 11-year-olds are still overweight or clinically obese.

Coun Hart, Conservative cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "It is too soon to say with any certainty that we are winning the battle with obesity.

"Look at smoking, it took almost 30 to 40 years to win that battle.

"The figures are encouraging but obesity remains a priority for Worcestershire's health and wellbeing board.

"We are aiming to tackle it in many ways, through healthy lifestyles and workplaces, and by empowering people to make their own choices about better health."

His comments, made during a full council meeting, have been backed by other politicians.

Councillor Martin Jenkins, from UKIP, said: "School is often a place where this can be monitored, but the attitude I often get from parents is one of frustration and despair.

"Of course we want our children to be bright but we also want them to be fit and healthy."

He called for more PE lessons in schools to help "solve this epidemic once and for all".

Exactly 17.6 per cent of year six children in Worcestershire are currently classed as obese, down from 18.2 per cent a year ago.

The sample of 5,096 children by NHS Worcestershire also showed wide discrepancies in obesity rates for children in different parts of the county.

Children in the Wyre Forest are the fattest in the county, with 20.4 per cent of year six children obese, while in Bromsgrove the figure is just 14.8 per cent.

Worcester’s rate is 16.7 per cent, down 2.8 per cent on the previous year, but levels have risen slightly to 18.9 per cent in Wychavon.

Obesity in children costs the public sector in Worcestershire, including the NHS and county council, more than £80 million yearly.