The Food Active programme, which is run by Health Equalities Group and funded by the North West Directors of Public Health has been in development since 2012 and was officially launched in late 2013 as a response to the Government White Paper 'Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives: A Call to Action on Obesity'; North West Directors of Public Health identified reducing obesity as a priority for collaborative action.
The proportion of the population affected by obesity continues to rise and of particular concern, is the increasing rate of overweight and obesity amongst infants and children. This is particularly prevalent in lower socio-economic groups. Within the North West, nearly 10% of the Reception year children measured in 2011/12 were obese. By Year 6, the rate of obesity doubled to 19.8% (National Child Measurement Programme).
The aims of Food Active are to:
- Investigate public perception and support for specific policy interventions that are shown to be effective in achieving and maintaining healthy weight
- Develop research and research partnerships to establish further evidence that may enable policy changes at national & local levels
- Produce a range of briefings, communications and events to disseminate best practice in the implementation of local programmes and initiatives to promote healthy weight
- Build and strengthen partnership working across the North West
A North West public health task group identified the top most effective collaborative actions to impact on healthy weight outcomes and identified these as priorities for future action:
- Advocate for the use of price and availability of sugar sweetened beverages to change consumption behaviour to impact on obesity rates
- Advocate for stronger national regulatory controls on the advertising of junk food to children
- Advocate for spatial planning measures locally to increase physical activity e.g. 20mph zones
Despite the positive progress being made to improve healthy weight in our region, obesity still remains a challenging public health issue as the proportion of adults with an unhealthy BMI continues to increase. QOF data on obesity prevalence indicates levels of 12% in the North of England compared with 9% in the London and South Commissioning Regions – A North/South divide still persists. Public Health England recently set out their strategy on sugar reduction in their recent paper 'Sugar Reduction: Responding to the Challenge'. The Food Active programme aims to add value locally to tackling obesity through a collaborative approach.
The brand is currently growing in recognition and has achieved a number of key outcomes focusing on the initial programme objective; to consider the use of price and availability of sugar sweetened beverages to change consumption and impact on obesity.
Abdul Razzaq, Chair of Food Active, said:
"Sugary drinks are adding empty calories to our diets and contributing to the region's obesity problem. This research demonstrates that major benefits are to be gained from a duty on sugary drinks not only in terms of improving individual health but also in reducing the burden that obesity is placing on the NHS. Given this, Food Active is calling on the Government to consider introducing a duty on sugary drinks without delay."