TWO northern councils have outlined various initiatives they have introduced to reduce the number of children suffering from malnutrition.

As reported on Tuesday, health bosses in Blackburn with Darwen have pledged to investigate new data showing alarming levels of malnutrition in primary school children, after it was revealed the borough has the highest percentage of underweight children in England.

Oldham and Bradford, which have similar demographics to Blackburn with Darwen, had much lower percentages, so the Lancashire Telegraph asked their councils to detail the measures taken to combat the problem.

Oldham Council said one of its key successes has been its support for the Food for Life Programme, which aims to transform the food culture in schools through projects with local farms and food charities.

Oldham has been listed as a ‘hotspot’ for the programme, meaning most schools in the area take part.

A spokesman added there has also been an increase in visits to homes by NHS health visitors, while a new infant feeding strategy is set to be rolled out.

A Bradford Council spokesman said: “Child health is an important part of the public health strategy for Bradford and we work with our partners to ensure support is put in place early on to ensure babies get the best start in life possible.

“This includes ensuring mums-to-be have a healthy diet, supporting breastfeeding programmes and supporting families through health visitors and school nursing.

“Bradford is just launching a programme in schools identifying children who may benefit from free breakfast, lunch and cooking clubs to make dinner. This will include parental and community involvement.”

Data obtained from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), which looked at the Body Mass Index (BMI) of year six children, showed 3.5 per cent were clinically underweight in Blackburn with Darwen in 2012/13.

The percentages in Oldham and Bradford were two per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively, while the national average was 1.3 per cent.

Health experts at Blackburn with Darwen Council are looking closely at the issue to ‘understand the full range of causes’.

A spokesman said the council ‘works with a number of agencies’ to support overweight and underweight children, but said further details could not be provided in time for our deadline.