Obesity has recently overtaken smoking as the biggest cause of early death. With research showing that habits for life, including eating habits, are formed during childhood, the Public Health department that works across Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster recently consulted with a range of professionals including the NHS and council departments to understand what is needed to reduce childhood obesity in the area. The result of the consultation is a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) that will be used to inform the councils’ approach to tackling childhood obesity.
There has been a substantial increase in children who are obese over the last two decades. There are numerous adult health problems linked to obesity during childhood including, among others, type 2 diabetes. Many of these problems are linked to early death, which has a significant impact on our population and services. Additionally, childhood obesity also impacts on mental wellbeing. With around 70% of obese adolescents going on to be obese adults, the Childhood Obesity JSNA focuses on prevention during early years and exploiting all possible opportunities to encourage children and families to be more active.
Research during the consultation showed that in:
Hammersmith and Fulham, 37.6% of children are overweight or obese by Year 6 (age 11)
Kensington and Chelsea / West London, 36.1% of children are overweight or obese by Year 6 (age 11)
Westminster / Central London, 40% of children are overweight or obese by Year 6 (age 11)
Findings / recommendations
Childhood obesity has a complex web of causes with more than 100 known influencing factors, meaning that a wide ranging approach is required to tackle it. This may include planning roads, promoting cycling, maximising the use of open spaces, working with local businesses to provide healthy menu options and encouraging physical activity and healthy lifestyles. The report recommends that every department and organisation has a role to play in creating and supporting increasingly healthier environments to make healthy choices the easy choices.
Due to the high levels of childhood obesity, it is becoming a new norm to be overweight or obese. The report also recommends that all partners use clear and consistent messages that are readily understood by all audiences and use the optimal communication channels for each audience, communicating regularly and consistently.