Organisations and individuals are being encouraged to play their part in helping Leeds become healthier by signing a pledge to promote healthy weight.
In Leeds, around one in ten children in reception year, one in five children in year five and a quarter of adults are obese, highlighting why being a healthy weight is a key challenge for the city.
In September 2018, Leeds City Council was the first local authority in Yorkshire to formally adopt the Healthy Weight Declaration. The declaration is a council commitment to promote healthy weight across all areas of the organisation with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of the local population.
The declaration includes 14 standard commitments and six local priorities, and provides the rationale and platform to raise awareness and deliver on the importance of healthy weight and supporting local people to be a healthy weight in a variety of ways.
At a meeting arranged to share opportunities for improving active lifestyles and encourage healthy eating with city partners, Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, Executive Member for Adults and Health, highlighted the commitment of elected members to the Declaration.
Dr Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health, explained how healthy weight is an important factor for overall health. This was echoed by Robin Ireland, Director of Research at the Health Equalities Group, and originator of the Healthy Weight Declaration.
Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, Chair of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said:
“We know people understand the health problems that can come from being an unhealthy weight, so we are looking at how the council can support people better who want to have more active lifestyles and make healthier choices around food. We want to make a healthy option the easy option, and sometimes that’s not the case in the city.
“The declaration provides a basis for conversations with our partners in health, education, business and voluntary sector. And I’m glad we have made progress promoting healthier lifestyles in recent years. We want to be the best city for health and wellbeing and this forms an important part of that work.”
Dr Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health for Leeds, said:
“Reducing obesity is a helpful indicator we use to measure the progress we make helping people live longer, healthier lives. In common with other areas, we still have more to do and that is why it remains such an important part of the health and wellbeing strategy for the city.”
Robin Ireland highlighted some of the ethical challenges that face councils and local areas, as they face the challenge of encouraging healthy lifestyles, while under financial pressure to make use of offers from fast food providers and to explain why they are making decisions which will impact on healthy weight. He said:
“Having the full weight of a council behind decisions can make a real difference when facing up to pressures which lead to unhealthy decisions being made that can have a negative long-term impact on people’s lives. I’m delighted with the efforts being made in Leeds and really look forward to seeing the positive impact of what you are doing in the years to come.”
The council is involved in a range of healthy weight schemes, for instance supporting families to be a Healthy Weight from a very early age, training over 1,000 Local Health Visitors and Children’s Centres workers, to deliver the HENRY programme (Health Exercise and Nutrition for the Really Young) to enable them to provide high quality one to one support to the families they work with and to offer Let’s Get Healthy with Henry Groups in local children’s centres.
Food and Physical Activity
Active Leeds offer free sessions community based activities that aim to encourage inactive people to become active.
The council supports the national Change 4 Life campaigns encouraging families to eat well by making food swaps to reduce the amount of fat and sugar eaten and move more to increase the amount of physical activity undertaken.
The council’s Public Health experts work with other council departments, such as Planning, to influence how the built environment can be improved to encourage people to be more active and eat healthier and how the city’s parks can be used to promote more physical activity.
Public health commissions a range of services to help people who are overweight and obese to lose weight. These include the One You Leeds service which uses a health coaching approach and offers Ministry of Food cooking skills courses, healthy eating support, physical activity sessions and an adult weight management programme and Leeds Rhinos Foundation providing a men’s weight management programme.
Public Health works with healthcare staff in both primary care and in hospitals, to support staff to raise the importance of healthy eating and physical activity with patients. GP practices have improved information about how to access local services and schemes to support people who wish to change their lifestyle.
The HWD provides the opportunity for the Local Authority to add local priorities additional to the 14 standard commitments. Six local priorities for Leeds have been proposed which target different age groups:
· Influencing planning and design for a healthy weight environment
· Influencing the Council’s food offer to promote a healthy weight
· Encouraging an active healthy workforce
· Implementing our local whole school food policy
· Increasing active travel and improving air quality
· Implementing a Leeds ‘Move More’ style campaign
The intention is to use these six local priorities to spearhead the HWD and to focus on three of these priorities in the first year.
Details of the 14 standard commitments are available at https://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/documents/s180398/Healthy%20Weight%20Declaration%20Cover%20Report%20Appendices%20A-C%20060918.pdf