Home > Council and Democracy > Agenda item

Agenda item


To present a comprehensive update on progress tackling childhood and adult obesity.


Ms Nicky Dennison, Senior Public Health Practitioner presented a report on progress towards tackling childhood and adult obesity. Also in attendance was Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health.


She explained that the Council’s Healthy Weight Strategy which had five local action themes: people better informed to make their own good health choices; focusing on young people; good weight management services; reducing sugar intake; and improving local environments to encourage health eating and exercise.

Ms Dennison referred to the Local Authority Health Weight Declaration, a national initiative, which the Council signed in 2016. There were a range of commitments progressing well. Councillor Cain, as the Chairman of the Blackpool Health and Wellbeing Board and Cabinet Secretary for Resilient Communities, had encouraged the work to be promoted further so four healthy weight summits had been held over the last year involving local businesses, schools and other public/voluntary sector partners.


She added that an annual Healthy Choice Award event had first taken place in 2017 with food outlets and other organisations helped to make simple changes to create healthier menus, e.g. more low fat condiments, smaller portions. One hundred businesses had been successful with this initiative including ethnic restaurants and the initiative had been spreading into children’s centres and schools. Good hot/cold food and packed lunches were being promoted. St Johns Primary School was leading on a pilot that, following feedback from parents, would be rolled out further and St Georges School was promoting cookery skills. The healthy weight pilot had also proved successful so had been extended to 2019.


Ms Dennison reported that two successful Give Up Loving Pop (GULP) events had been held where whole classes were encouraged to stop drinking fizzy drinks for at least 28 days with an associated competition for classes to take part in. This would be extended to more year groups.  Another benefit had been that children involved with the campaign had now started to check the nutritional information on products.


Other proactive work included providing planning policy with evidence of the impact of fast food outlets so their numbers could be controlled.


She referred to effective work being pursued through the Head Start Programme (emotional resilience for 10-15 year olds), e.g. using social media to get good health messages out.  Early years (0-4 year olds) work was also being developed with the Better Start Programme (good nutrition focus) and the ‘Food Active’ organisation across the north-west.


The Chairman noted the Local Authority Declaration, summits and anecdotal feedback but enquired what empirical evidence there was to confirm that effective progress was being made. Ms Dennison explained that it was difficult to directly correlate interventions with outcomes but Blackpool figures from the National Child Measurement Programme indicated an improving trend over the last two years for healthy weight outcomes. However, those figures would need to be sustained before robust outcomes could be confirmed. She added that an evaluation of the Declaration would take place with Food Active.


Dr Arif Rajpura agreed that this was interim progress and momentum needed to be maintained with healthy eating/weight with robust messages delivered and a holistic approach particularly improving local environments and mind-sets for better health., e.g. walking more. He cited the ‘Fit to Go’ for year four school-children which was a physical activity programme run by Blackpool Football Community Trust and jointly funded by the Trust, Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group and the Council.


The Chair referred to the Wyre district which offered people free weight management programmes at local gyms and enquired whether a similar approach could be offered in Blackpool given that there were Council owned facilities. He also queried what publicity there was and whether people were able to self-refer for support programmes. Members added that support programmes needed to be long enough to ensure that there was sustainable improvement otherwise people might naturally revert back to unhealthy behaviours.


Members were informed that the Council did offer free access to its gyms for weight management support with a twelve week ‘child and family’ programme. People were usually referred to the programme following assessment through the National Child Measurement Programme. GPs were also being encouraged to make referrals (‘Making Changes’ pathway). Discounted access to gyms was also offered after free support finished. 


The Chairman enquired why all schools were not adopting the ‘Daily Mile’ principal of classes sharing a walk together at the start of school days. Members were informed that the benefits had been promoted to all schools but most were independent academies which had various considerations such as budgets and staff capacity. Some were making use of proceeds from the sugar tax levy to develop initiatives such as track infrastructure which could cost as much as £3k.


Members noted that all schools already had playgrounds so should readily be able to promote exercise such as walking at no real cost.


In response to a query about recognising the need to support people with anorexia, it was explained that the focus was on healthy weight which applied to everyone. Obesity was a far more significant issue within Blackpool but there was support for people with anorexia.


Members noted that free school breakfasts promoted better nutrition although often ‘rewards’ were in the form of treats. Public Health officers agreed that sweet treats gave a contradictory message and explained that schools were required to have ‘food plans’. Public Health did re-iterate healthy eating messages to schools and generally promoted healthy eating, e.g. at school fairs / public events.


Members noted that it was easy to safely cycle along the promenade but there were no fully joined-up safe cycling routes across town. They queried the development of strategic walking and cycling. It was explained that several years ago there had been good safe routes but these had been decommissioned. Department of Transport funding had recently been secured to develop local infrastructure planning for cycling and walking which was being pursued through a pan-Lancashire strategy.


In response to the harmful impact of advertising and marketing which promoted unhealthy foods, Public Health agreed that this had considerable impact and needed stronger controls. These issues had been raised at a recent Health Select Committee debate. Officers added that new legislation such as the tax on sugary products would have a positive impact and the Government was drafting a new Child Obesity Plan.


Public Health officers re-iterated the message that cultural change took time and that support programmes were one tool as part of a range of options forming a comprehensive strategic family approach. There had been good focus on children which now needed to capture adults. There were a host of professionals from school nurses to Head Start officers involving in promoting messages. Value for money outcomes, with robust evaluation, needed to be achieved given funding pressures.


Members were informed that Blackpool had received national recognition for its healthy weight work and had become a beacon to areas with obesity challenges. 




Supporting documents: