The Committee considered a report of the Director of Public Health which sought the views of the Committee on the new proposed healthy weight strategy for Leicestershire as part of the consultation on the draft strategy. A copy of the report, marked ‘Agenda Item 11’, is filed with these minutes.
Members welcomed the breadth of the strategy and the different methods proposed to tackle the issue. Arising from discussions the following points were noted:
(i) The data which indicated that the majority of adults in the United Kingdom were overweight came from Sport England’s Active Lives Survey. Some members felt that the criteria for classifying a person as overweight was too easily met and cautioned that care needed to be taken with the expectations that were set for people’s weight and body shape. In response the Director of Public Health emphasised that in the past UK residents had weighed a lot less and current body shapes were not typical in comparison to trends over time. Therefore carrying out further work to reduce the average body weight of people in Leicestershire was important.
(ii) The healthy weight strategy focused on what could be done locally to improve the weight of Leicestershire residents. The strategy had a family orientated approach rather than focusing just on individuals and aimed to improve a wide range of skills e.g. helping households to improve cookery skills and have a more balanced diet. It was important not just to look at the amount of food people were eating but also take into account the amount of calories in the foods they chose to eat. Given that some of Leicestershire’s tourism industry was based around foods such as cheese and pies a balance needed to be struck when carrying out weight management work so that tourism was not significantly affected.
(iii) Members felt that commercial retailers needed to be liaised with so that there was less advertising of unhealthy food, less in-store promotions, and that it needed to be ensured that unhealthy food was not significantly cheaper than healthy food. Members stated that central Government needed to play more of a role particularly with regards to restricting advertising of unhealthy food. The Director of Public Health stated that he believed the Government had now made weight management more of a priority, especially since it had been shown that a person’s weight had an impact on the severity of Covid-19 symptoms.
(iv) Concerns were raised by a member regarding the impact the Covid-19 pandemic had on people’s weight as the measures put in place to tackle the spread had led to more sedentary lifestyles. In response the Director of Public Health pointed out that as more people were working from home they were not commuting to work and therefore potentially had more time to exercise.
(v) A member raised concerns that obesity was not just related to the price of food but people could be addicted to certain unhealthy foods such as chocolate and therefore there were mental health issues which needed to be addressed. In response the Director of Public Health stated that weight management services were available for people and mental health support was available for patients eligible for bariatric surgery, but residents could not be forced to address their addiction problems and people needed to be willing to make the change.
(a) Concerns were raised that the weight management services were only available for people that were significantly overweight, and those that were only just overweight could not access help and there was a danger people would put on more weight so they could qualify for help. In response the Director of Public Health provided reassurance that the Strategy had a strong focus on prevention but stated that some prioritisation had to take place and more funding was required if weight management services were to be broadened out to more people.
(b) A member suggested that District Councils could play a role when giving planning permission for retail developments in ensuring that healthier food was provided. In response reassurance was given that Environmental Health and Trading Standards departments were being liaised with as part of the consultation.
That the healthy weight strategy for Leicestershire be supported subject to the comments now made.