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Health Matters: A whole systems approach to obesity

Addressing the food environment

The latest Health Matters blog; ‘Addressing the food environment as part of a local whole systems approach to obesity’ raises several important points about how we will reverse the rising trend of obesity in children, young people and adults in this country. It is clearly stating that there isn’t one single cause or cure for obesity, but also that the relative contribution of the various elements that contribute to, and can ameliorate, obesity cannot easily be quantified. It is important that we don’t pull apart the various strategies and guidance’s that have been released and do only one element of them as it is the cumulative effect that we are looking for – since it is the cumulative effect that has caused the issues in the first place.

Fast food vs local authority

A great example is looking at the graph demonstrating the number of fast food outlets per head in deprived areas versus affluent areas. Whilst the statistics, when you look at them, are shocking, changing the number of fast food outlets would neither have an immediate impact on its own, nor would it be possible to do very easily from a legislative standpoint. However, as part of a wider system of increasing availability of healthy foods, including foods on the go, enhancing skills and confidence in healthy food preparation and a vast array of other efforts to shift the environment to being a more healthy one, it is likely that better health would ensue.

PHE are heading down the right road with these guidances, however it is important that Local Authorities and other significant parties feel confident enough, and have the resources to meaningfully implement and evaluate these measures. I am optimistic about the future if we continue to go down this road.

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