Publish date: 24 November 2022

Organisations join forces to champion healthy weight in communities

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Organisations in North Tyneside and Northumberland have committed to supporting their communities to live full and healthy lives through adopting a Healthy Weight Declaration – with this joint adoption being the first of its kind.

Putting health at the heart of decision making, North Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust this week signed their Healthy Weight Declarations.

The organisations are the first in the country to take this unique collaborative approach to adopting the declaration, which includes a series of pledges and practical measures. The Healthy Weight Declaration was developed by Food Active in response to growing concerns about the increase and impact of overweight and obesity across the country.

Overweight and obesity for adults in North Tyneside and Northumberland is currently 65.9 per cent in both areas.

Cllr Karen Clark, cabinet member for Public Health and Wellbeing at North Tyneside Council, said: “As a local authority, enabling our residents to live long and healthy lives is a priority for us.

“The increase in rates of obesity both nationally and locally is a serious public health issue.

“Living with obesity can have a negative impact on a person’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Obesity deprives an individual of an extra nine years of life on average and those living with obesity are more likely to develop high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

“We are determined to do even more to support our communities, which is why it is important to have such a commitment to healthy weight at a council level.

“It is also fantastic that we can do this collaboratively with Northumbria Healthcare and Northumberland Council, meaning we can share best practice and ensure the best support and help for our residents.”

With there being many individual, environmental and population factors affecting someone’s weight, some people find it more difficult to achieve and maintain a healthy weight than others.

Following the Healthy Weight Declaration, the councils’ public health teams will work across their organisations with other departments to make sure healthy weight is a key priority.

The organisations will also work with a range of partners, including voluntary and community organisations, supporting people who want to lose weight, piloting and targeting new services, identifying barriers people face, exploring weight stigma and providing support for people to eat well and be physically active.

There will also be consideration given to how strategies, plans and infrastructures can be used to promote healthy weight and how regeneration and town planning can positively impact on levels of physical activity and the food environment.

Northumberland County Councillor Wendy Pattison, cabinet member for Adult Wellbeing, said: “Many of us struggle with our weight from time to time.  However, when we are not of a healthy weight, our risk of having a stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes increase, so it is really important to try and maintain a healthy weight.

"We want to do all we can to support our residents to live long and healthy lives.  I am delighted that we are signing the Healthy Weight Declaration, which gives us the opportunity to promote an environment conducive to supporting good health and well-being in our communities.”

Northumbria Healthcare will be reviewing food and drink provision across all of its buildings and facilities and working towards enabling more active and sustainable travel to its sites. It will provide workplace health programmes for their staff which will create opportunities for them to eat well, be active and make lifestyle changes.

In the longer term, they have committed to reviewing how procurement, contracts and commercial partnerships with the food and drink industry impact on healthier and sustainable food and drink provision in its organisation. They hope this will ensure they are providing an increasingly healthier food and drink offer and providing consistent messages about healthy eating to its patients and staff.

Jill Harland, public health consultant at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “I am delighted that we are the first NHS Trust in the country to adopt the Healthy Weight Declaration and can contribute to this whole system approach by working closely with our local authority partners.

“The declaration will leverage opportunities within the NHS to develop forward-thinking approaches, grounded in strong evidence, to influence the things we know shape health.

“Obesity is not a choice. We know that the people who are most likely to be an unhealthy weight are those who have a high genetic risk of developing obesity and whose lives are also shaped by work, school and social environments. 

“People living with obesity often experience weight stigma, bias and discrimination, leading to poorer physical and mental health. This work will help us to improve their access to, and experience of, healthcare by introducing training to our staff and working with patients to review our healthcare environments to improve accessibility.

“We also recognise the added challenge the rising cost of living has brought to achieving a healthy weight for households in our local communities. We will make every effort to use this opportunity to address the barriers to achieving a healthy weight and to help people to enjoy a healthy life.” 

Developed by North West based charity, Food Active, the declaration was first adopted by Blackpool Council in 2016 where it has been shown to have made a positive impact on policy at local authority level. Dozens of local authorities across the country have now adopted, and the declaration continues to gain recognition as a useful tool in helping councils to promote healthy weight.

Robin Ireland, Research Director at Food Active and the lead for this project, said: “Congratulations to all three organisations for taking this stand.

“We all know how difficult it is to make the right choices when we are surrounded by unhealthy food, the wrong advertising messages and when sugary drinks are cheaper than water.

“I am delighted that North Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is doing everything they can to help their residents, patients, workers and pupils eat healthier.

“I hope other councils and NHS trusts will follow their example”.

For more details on the Local Government Declaration on Healthy Weight, visit http://www.foodactive.org.uk/projects/local-authority-declaration