Tackling obesity will be at the centre of a new public health campaign in Manchester led by Manchester City Council.

 The new five-year Healthy Weight strategy aims to reverse the grip that obesity has on the city’s population with an approach which will look at ways to reduce the risk of obesity and offering support to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Social and health inequalities can negatively impact people’s life chances and expectancy and during the pandemic there has been significant evidence linking obesity as a major contributing factor to an increased risk from Covid -19 .

The strategy led by Manchester’s Population Health and Wellbeing team has been informed by a wide range of partners, all with an interest in improving health outcomes across the city, some of which included the voluntary sector and charities, health professionals, town planners, sports coaches, teachers and retailers.

Four themes emerged as a focus for action for the council and its partners, and these were:  Food and Culture; Physical activity and exercise; Neighbourhood and Environment; Prevention and support.

David Regan, Director of Public Health said: “The obesity health crisis is not one that can be tackled in isolation, it is a complex area with many strands and is not just about focusing on unhealthy food choice and low levels of activity. Our new whole system approach looks at everything from parks and leisure facilities, licensing, and food outlets to transport and the built environment as well as looking at whether there is the right support to help people change their behaviour and encourage them to make the right choices in the future.

“We know that it isn’t easy but even making small changes in eating and increasing activity levels can lead to improvements in health and wellbeing and often these gains are the impetus for people to go further and make even greater improvements.  Our plan is to ensure that our work across every sector will give people the opportunity, knowledge and tools to make changes for the better.”

Obesity is a major health crisis countrywide and in Manchester 63% of adults and 41% of children at Year 6 (age 10-11) were overweight or obese, before Covid -19 higher than the national average. It is estimated that the costs of disease related to being overweight and obesity during 2015 in Manchester cost £185.1million.

The strategy looks at what can be done throughout a person’s life from pregnancy through to old age targeting interventions at each stage of life to encourage people to become more active, adopt a healthier diet and lifestyle, and to make improved choices to help reduce the risk of obesity. It has drawn best practice from cities in the UK and Europe where obesity rates have reversed and declined.

Some of the measures range from reducing food poverty and high fat and sugar foods, upskilling individuals to produce healthy food and to change consumer culture and behaviour and promoting active travel and opportunities for people to get involved in physical activity, particularly now that lockdown has eased and residents can take advantage again of health and fitness opportunities at local leisure centres.  Consistent messaging, early interventions, school education programmes on healthy eating and lifestyles, access to food clubs which offer subsidised food are just some of the ways in which the partnership will be working to progress the strategy.


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