At the March meeting of this Committee, Members requested a report on Childhood Obesity in Medway and the current work to improve performance on this issue. This paper provides some context around the Medway childhood obesity data, a summary of our current whole system approach and some specific activities that Medway Council is leading on.
The Head of Health and Wellbeing introduced the report which provided detail of Medway childhood obesity data and of the whole system approach to obesity in Medway.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments which included:
· Impact of poverty – officers confirmed that people living in food poverty had a strong correlation with obesity. It was anticipated that the covid-19 pandemic would have had an impact on obesity because of food supplies and the lack of physical activity. However, the pandemic had amplified the importance of the Food Partnership, which was now meeting more regularly to address need related to the pandemic.
· Healthy weight network event – officers confirmed this would go ahead but there was a potential for the event to be deferred for a few weeks because of the pandemic to ease pressure on NHS and school colleagues.
· Free School Meals – Officers explained that over 150 stakeholders had been involved in the response, which showed Medway as a system could respond and that this effort had continued throughout school closures.
Exercise referral programme
officers confirmed that as long as people had a long term health
condition they could access the exercise referral programme. In
addition officers added that Medway hosted a service where people
were referred to the programme for pre-cancer treatment as the
success rate and rehabilitation performance was better if their
bodies were better prepared.
· Direct family work – when a family received confirmation that their child was overweight, officers confirmed that engagement took place with the parents via a phone call, to advise on the services available to families as needed.
· Whole system approach – confirmation was made that tackling obesity needed a whole system approach. This included; green travel plans, daily mile activities, sporting facilities and much more. Concern was raised about the capacity of the community and voluntary sector (CVS). Officers referred to the recent in-depth review into the CVS and the actions from that that had recently been agreed by Cabinet, which included developing a Compact between the Council, NHS and CVS and also the creation of a liaison role within the Council to manage relationships with the CVS.
· Reporting back – it was recommended that an update on childhood obesity be reported back to the Committee. Officers confirmed that they were due to report to the April 2021 Health and Wellbeing Board meeting on priority areas and therefore suggested that this then be reported to the June meeting of this Committee and that it be reported annually thereafter.
· Child weight measurement programmes – concern was raised that the length of time between measuring children at Year R and then not again until Year 6 was a missed opportunity in terms of measuring the impact of interventions at Year R. Officers explained that because the cohort was so large, it gave a really good sample size and made it very reliable data. In addition, it was explained that there was lots of published data nationally about the intervening period between the two measurements and it was likely the findings of this would largely be mirrored at a local level.
· National intervention – it was felt that more action was needed from the Government, particularly to tackle the issue around the costs of high calorie foods, compared to fresh produce and also to provide more information around energy dense foods and the activity needed to burn off the calories. It was suggested that a letter be written to the Government to request more action on this.
The Committee noted the report and recommended officers to write to the Government to request further action to be taken to tackle obesity as part of a whole system approach.
In accordance with Council rule 12.6, Councillors Cooper, Johnson and Chrissy Stamp requested that their votes in favour be recorded.