MORE than one in five Borders pupils in their first year at school are overweight. And a staggering one in 20 is classed as severely obese.

Figures released by the Government last week have sent further shockwaves across health and fitness groups who are attempting to combat the podgy pupil problem.

A total of 1,077 primary one pupils from across the region were weighed and measured, with 20.1 per cent falling into the overweight category, 8.5 per cent being obese, and 5.2 per cent severely obese.

The figures have increased rapidly over the past decade. And despite many initiatives and promotions being launched in a bid to reverse the trend - they don't seem to be working.

Borders MSP Christine Grahame was so concerned by the latest figures when we contacted her, she raised the issue in Parliament last Thursday.

Ms Grahame, who used to chair the Health committee at Holyrood, told the Border Telegraph: "As a Parliament we are encouraging walk to school and healthy eating, but more needs to be done.

"In the Borders we are fortunate that Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders can work closely together and I hope they can take a lead, nationally, in tackling childhood obesity. There's a huge education exercise to be done."

The Borders figures mirror the national trend, where 21.4 per cent of primary one kids are overweight.

Both the local authority and NHS Borders realise the importance of getting kids fit for life. In a joint statement, released to the Border Telegraph, they said: "Maintaining healthy weight is especially important for children, to ensure they have the best chances of good health as they grow up and into adulthood. "NHS Borders is working closely with partner organisations including Scottish Borders Council and Borders Sports and Leisure Trust to support and encourage healthy eating and active living. "This means starting from the earliest stages possible with pregnancy so that mothers-to-be can do all they can to look after their own health and in infancy encouraging breastfeeding, healthy weaning, and active play. "Schools and children's services have a very important role in helping children develop skills and habits and make choices for themselves that keep them as healthy as possible."

A Joint Health Improvement Team has already been working closely with a number of Borders primary schools to offer Fit4Fun sessions about food, nutrition and keeping active. And NHS Borders has also affirmed its commitment to the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative for infant feeding for pregnant women as well for mothers and babies. And the council is implementing steps to encourage breastfeeding in its premises.

The joint statement added: "Recognising the importance of prevention and early intervention, considerable work has been undertaken with nurseries and child care providers to provide guidelines on healthy nutrition and active play and to ensure these messages reach those families who may face particular challenges because of their domestic circumstances, such as low income, mental health problems, substance misuse issues."

A healthy eating conference also took place in Galashiels last week hosted by NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council.