This report from the New Local Government Network calls for all councils to adopt an obesity strategy as part of their Local Area Agreements. It argues that they should be at the centre of fighting obesity and be rewarded by being allowed to retain a sum equivalent to 50 per cent of the NHS savings on treating future obesity averted as a result of early interventions.
Citing research that access to sports facilities increases fitness activity by up to 50 per cent, the report also argues that allowing local people access to sports facilities in independent schools that receive charitable status would help to tackle obesity, particularly in children. By 2020 the British Medical Association predicts that 20 per cent of boys and 33 per cent of girls will be obese.
The report also calls for radical changes to the planning system to promote healthy living, including ensuring every new building development to include sports and fitness facilities, such as space for a small gym. Supermarkets should also be made to ensure good public transport links to their out of town stores to ensure that poorer households have access to their goods.
The report looked at a sample of six UK local authorities to assess how well they were tackling obesity at a local level and found an “extreme variation” in the amount of work undertaken. The report however praises the work of Westminster Council in tackling obesity, including policies such as improving access to healthy food in poorer areas and improving access to physical activity opportunities for adults.
The report is available from the NLGN. http://www.nlgn.org.uk/public/press-releases/weighing-up-the-advantages-a-new-role-for-councils-in-tackling-obesity