Health experts lead obesity workshop

By on 24/05/2013 in News

Doctors and public health experts in Birmingham have joined forces with agencies across the city to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity.

Figures from Birmingham Public Health show that 40 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds in the city are now overweight or obese.

Birmingham South Central Clinical Commissioning Group (BSC CCG) and Birmingham Public Health led a workshop earlier this week to gather views from experts in the field, including Birmingham City Council, healthcare providers, third sector organisations, West Midlands Police and West Midlands Fire Service.

Dr Andrew Coward, Chair of BSC CCG and a GP in Kings Norton, who chaired the event, said: “Obesity has huge implications on the quality and quantity of our children's lives. Being clinically obese is as dangerous as smoking 20 cigarettes a day.

“There are good examples of work that has been done to date to address childhood obesity, but we must work on a much bigger scale. We need to take a 'zero tolerance' approach to obesity and get the whole city involved.

“We have had excellent feedback from the workshop and will incorporate this into Birmingham's childhood obesity strategy.”

Ideas from the workshop included:

•    Replace vending machines in council-run leisure centres with healthy foods;
•    Use empty land to grow fruit and vegetables;
•    Encourage companies to offer sports programmes for children by reducing business rates as an incentive;
•    Set up a city-wide youth engagement forum;
•    Run cookery classes for families to show them how to cook cheap, healthy meals;
•    Organise sports and leisure activities for families.

Dr Adrian Phillips, Director of Public Health for Birmingham, said: “Childhood obesity is far worse in Birmingham than the national average. It's a universal problem and a real emergency for the city.

“In the short term, we will encourage businesses to sell and promote healthy food, limit the number of fast food shops, encourage organisations that offer physical activity to children, and make walking and cycling safer with speed and parking restrictions.

“Obesity in children has now become so common that it is almost seen as the norm. We need to change this perception and focus on prevention.”

The workshop was hosted by Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Board at The Signing Tree Conference Centre, Ladywood, on Wednesday 22 May.

Dr Coward chairs a working group of the board, which focuses on tackling childhood obesity. The board will be publishing the Birmingham Childhood Obesity Strategy during the summer.

Childhood obesity - key facts

•    Obesity costs Birmingham £2.6 billion each year, including costs to the NHS, social care and the wider economy. It increases the risk of developing many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

•    Eighty-five per cent of obese children become obese adults and are likely to have their life expectancy reduced by nine years.

•    Forty per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds in Birmingham are overweight or obese. One in four of these children is clinically obese.

•    Birmingham is ranked as one of the worst local authorities in England for childhood obesity rates - 311th out of 324 for 10 and 11-year-olds and 306th out of 324 for four and five-year-olds (2011/12 figures).

ENDS

Notes to editors

1.    Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) took over the responsibility of commissioning health services on 1 April 2013 as part of the Government's plans for the NHS under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The groups, which are led by doctors and nurses, work together to manage their local budgets and buy health services for patients direct with other NHS colleagues and local authorities. By being in charge of the decisions that affect their patients, the CCGs are able to commission quality care that is tailored to meet the specific needs of their patients and the wider community.

2.    BSC CCG is responsible for buying healthcare services for about 250,000 people in the south and centre of the city. It is made up of 47 GP practices.

3.    Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Board was formed on 1 April 2013 under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 as a forum where key leaders from the health and social care system in the city work together to improve the health and wellbeing of their local population and reduce health inequalities. The board sets the city's health and social care priorities and oversees health and social care arrangements, to ensure that decisions taken are in the best interests of the people of Birmingham. It is made up of a combination of councillors, GPs, local NHS officers and council officers, with input from the public through Local Healthwatch.

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