HEG has a successful track record of influencing politicians, policy influencers, the public and the media in support of public health interventions. This has involved framing problems and solutions; communicating benefits and building partnerships and alliances.
Our experience in tobacco control advocacy goes back a long way. In 2004, we were approached by Smokefree Liverpool to work with the neighbouring boroughs of Merseyside to support Liverpool’s leadership on developing a smokefree bylaw in advance of national legislation. The 400 reasons campaign we established was instrumental in gaining a collective Merseyside voice in advocating for smokefree legislation in 2007.
We have had success in engaging, informing and influencing North West MPs and MEP in relation to a number of tobacco control issues including the Tobacco Products Directive in the European Parliament. Our tobacco advocacy work has also extended to the public health workforce, local authority workers, the voluntary sector, local councillors and the general public.
HEG has led the design and development of a collaborative Healthy Weight Campaign (Food Active) on behalf of the Directors of Public Health in the North West since 2012. Following insight work, the development of national data and consultation and discussion with key partners, Food Active has focused on sugar consumption as a key risk factor for obesity. We support the national call for a hypothecated duty on sugar sweetened beverages as a mechanism to effect behaviour change and to drive down the consumption of these drinks whose biggest consumers are teenagers from more disadvantaged communities.
Food Active is the only regional programme of its kind in the country and HEG has worked with advocacy groups such as Action on Sugar, national charities such as Sustain and the UK Health Forum and academic institutions and professional medical organisations in its development.
In developing Food Active, HEG has drawn strongly on our long experience in tobacco control. In May 2014, we worked directly with Action on Smoking and Health and a Merseyside Director of Public Health to learn from tobacco control experience and to apply this to a prospective Local Authority Declaration on Obesity based on the Local Authority Declaration on Tobacco Control, which has now been firmly established in Cheshire and Merseyside.
Tackling health inequalities often requires a strong voice matched with strong leadership.