Report aiming to tackle childhood obesity

By on 23/07/2013 in News

A new report has outlined a wide range of measures to cut Birmingham's childhood obesity rates over the next five years.

Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, has drawn up a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) looking at how Birmingham tackles the issue of childhood obesity.

The JSNA will be discussed by Birmingham's Health and Wellbeing Board on Tuesday 23 July. See the webcast here from 3pm:


Obesity impacts on the quality of people's lives in many ways, not only their physical health but also their wellbeing and economic productivity.

The financial cost of obesity to Birmingham amounts to £2.6 Billion per year including costs to the NHS, social care and the wider economy. For health alone, it increases the risk of developing many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Over the past three decades the prevalence of overweight and obesity across the population has increased substantially, especially in children.

Preventing the next generation of adults becoming obese is an important priority for the economic and physical health of Birmingham.

Overweight and obese children have significant reductions in quality of life and suffer more teasing, bullying and social isolation. 85% of obese children become obese adults and are likely to reduce their life expectancy by 9 years.

The growth in childhood obesity means that today's children are unlikely to live as long as their parents.

Obesity occurs as a consequence of long term excess energy consumption relative to an individual's energy use leading to an accumulation of excess fat. This energy balance is affected by an individual's genetic makeup and their choices as well as their surroundings, opportunities and life conditions.

The multiple determinants of obesity mean that tackling it requires coordinated action across society.

Birmingham has made progress to tackle obesity with national recognition for interventions such as Be Active, Lighten Up and Villa Vitality. However, the impact of these interventions alone is inadequate to make a difference, given the change in the environment over the last 30 years.

The gap between Birmingham and the national average has widened in recent years.

Factors driving our obesity epidemic fall into 3 categories:

  1. Environment - we have an environment that encourages low physical effort, with more car journeys at the expense of walking etc. We have allowed unhealthy food options to proliferate in our society, often at the expense of healthy options, especially close to schools.
  2. Behaviour - we have adopted behaviour that complements our environment, especially concerning eating high-calorific foods. This is often driven by evidence-based marketing.
  3. Opportunity - we have developed few opportunities for children to undertake appealing physical exertion or enjoy healthy food options, especially early in life.

Reducing obesity across a population needs to focus on prevention rather than treatment and possible measures include:

  • Reducing fast food shops, especially near schools.
  • Making walking safer (e.g. through speed and parking restrictions near schools)
  • Encouraging businesses that sell and promote healthy food.
  • Encouraging businesses that offer physical activity to children.
  • Changing Unitary Development Plans to encourage walking and cycling and less reliance on cars.
  • Making breastfeeding in public socially acceptable.
  • Having school meals that are appealing and healthy.
  • Ensuring school dining facilities are “exciting” with staff highlighting their appeal.
  • Ensuring access to low cost, high excitement activities.
  • Local “play” facilities that are safe.

Targets (by 2016/17)

  • 20 per cent increase in children walking or cycling to school compared to 2012/13.
  • No growth in fast food outlets - we've mapped takeaways near schools in a bid to better inform future planning decisions.
  • 100 per cent increase in fruit and veg consumption across all primary schools and nurseries within three years.
  • 40 per cent reduction in unhealthy snacks consumed within the school day within three years.
  • 50 per cent increase in children accessing Be Active compared to 2012/13
  • 2 per cent increase in children taking school meals

Also looking at possibility of:

  • Road closure days to encourage more cycling.
  • Increasing and promoting opportunities for family physical activity in parks.
  • Increase access to green gyms in parks

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