Childhood obesity is reaching dangerous proportions in many countries and poses an urgent, immediate and serious health challenge. London is one of the worst cities internationally in this respect ahead of New York, Toronto and Sydney. Almost one in four children in London’s primary schools and more than one in three children in year 6 are overweight or obese.
We need to better understand the drivers that are prompting families and their children towards less healthy choices in London and generate innovative ways of supporting more healthy choices. Therefore we have been working with three neighbourhoods in London to examine what more can be done to tackle childhood obesity as part of our Healthy Communities project.
Following an open expression of interest, three projects (Tower Hamlets, Haringey, Hackney) were selected to participate in the Healthy Communities. Those chosen were within boroughs ranked within the UK’s most deprived areas and with high populations of overweight children. Tower Hamlets’s and Haringey’s projects focused on partnerships with primary schools. Hackney focused on a local housing estate. All projects related to the wider neighbourhood surrounding these sites and looked at daily community living.
The project aimed to:
- Support the childhood obesity agenda and efforts to tackle overweight and obesity levels, and promote healthier living
- Develop a detailed understanding of behavioural and social factors influencing childhood obesity in three communities across London
- Develop a process to effectively develop community-led solutions and build upon existing initiative
From our learning, we created two guides to help commissioners work innovatively and sustainably with voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises to achieve the best value for local health needs.
They reflect the methods used for healthy communities projects, including:
- Defining the problem using human centred design.
- Designing and kick-starting financially sustainable business models for the initiatives which, once operating at scale, have the capacity to be financially independent of public sector funding.
- Partnering with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, community leaders and entrepreneurs to pilot and ‘own’ the initiative.
- Providing incubation support for the initiatives through training, business modelling, partnerships and funding.