Leading Birmingham's fight against childhood obesity

By on 17/05/2013 in Blog

Linda HindleWith a strategy to tackle childhood obesity set to be published shortly, Birmingham Public Health's Consultant Dietician and Senior Manager for Healthy Eating and Activity, Linda Hindle, looks at the city's obesity challenge.

Unless you've been living in a darkened room for the last few years, you'll be well aware that one of the major health challenges facing us in Birmingham is childhood obesity.

Nearly one in four of our 10 and 11-year-olds is now obese - a figure higher than many other towns and cities in the UK.

Earlier this year, Director of Public Health Adrian Phillips labelled that statistic 'almost a scandal' and it's hardly surprising that the Health and Wellbeing Board in Birmingham has prioritised tackling childhood obesity now Birmingham City Council has once more taken on responsibility for public health across the city.

I was privileged to be invited by the Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO) to attend the 20th European Congress of Obesity in Liverpool this week. My invite was as Chair of DOM UK to discuss the potential for collaboration between ASO, DOM UK and other professional organisations with the common purpose of reducing obesity.

I was able to use the experience at the Congress to learn from the experiences and research of colleagues from across the Globe and to check that our plans to tackle childhood obesity in Birmingham are based on the best evidence.

Our aim in Birmingham is quite simple: a significant reduction in obesity at Reception and Year 6.

That's easy enough to state but we're under no illusions about the scale of the challenge.

One speaker referred to obesity as a 'wicked problem' and likened the challenge of reducing it to that of tackling terrorism, climate change and world poverty! No mean feat then!

The Foresight systems map was used several times at the congress to illustrate the complexity of the causes and solutions to obesity.

But it was heartening to see that our intention to focus on improving the macro environment, supporting behaviour change and creating more opportunities for children to eat healthy choices and be more active is ticking the right boxes.

An interesting insight was that most behaviours are done automatically without any conscious thought, yet interventions generally focus on conscious thinking. These interventions work but only for individuals who have an established intention to change.

In Birmingham we're developing our plans to reduce childhood obesity with as many colleagues and partners as possible and this 'systems approach', was a strong message from the Congress.

Our Joint strategic needs assessment on childhood obesity will be published in June and we are currently pulling together our draft obesity strategy.

To that end, next week the Health and Wellbeing Board will host a workshop to help us draw-up that strategy.

In addition to the guests at the workshop, we're really keen to get local views and support for the strategy, particularly from delivery partners so if you want to be involved, please drop me a line linda.hindle@birmingham.gov.uk

Tags: , , , , , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.