A £2.2MILLION gaming programme aimed at encouraging young people to eat healthily and get active has been officially launched.

But this time young people themselves will be right at the heart of the programme - and they will help to develop technology used to combat obesity.

It comes after Southampton was named the seventh fattest city in the UK earlier this year, that 65 per cent of adults in Southampton are estimated to be overweight or obese and that less than 25 per cent of adults do 30 minutes of exercise three times a week.

Figures showed that more than a third of all ten and 11-year-olds in Southampton are obese with those in the rest of Hampshire not far behind.

But now teenagers from schools across the city will bring their fresh ideas to Southampton University's Lifelab's EACH-B project, which aims to help young people understand how the decisions they make now could have health implications in later life.

The programme will see the youngsters help produce a digital game, alongside health researchers and scientists before their ideas are sent to game designers at Glasgow Caledonian University.

The game will then be sent back to Lifelab to be tested out by the students themselves in a bid to help them make healthier life choices.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research representatives from the organisation were invited to an official launch.

Project lead associate professor Mary Barker said:

“The fact that NIHR is prepared to fund research into a public health problem using innovative methods like gaming, is a mark of just how seriously they are taking this area of research and their faith in University and its partners to deliver it.”

While Programme manager at NIHR, Vasilis Kontogiannis added: “It was wonderful to see how this research will be able to make a difference to future generations through this intervention approach.

“We are looking forward to seeing how the benefits of this research will have real impact long term.”

LifeLab is part of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre - a teaching laboratory at University Hospital Southampton, dedicated to improving adolescent health by giving school students opportunities to learn first-hand the science behind health messages.