Helen Forster, Strategic Lead Place Environment and Community, presented the report to Members and explained that the Whole Obesity Strategy had been developed as the driver for preventing and reducing obesity in Thurrock. The Delivery Framework which accompanied the strategy would continue to be developed as a result of a number of engagement activities and in collaboration with a range of key stakeholders and detailed the specific actions that set out how the strategy could be achieved. Helen Forster stated that a lot of work was already going on and this was an exciting time to embrace the further recommendations with Members being reminded that the Delivery Framework was a dynamic document and would evolve. She welcomed comments and questions.
The Chair thanked Public Health for another excellent report.
Councillor Ralph asked who the community champions were. Helen Forster stated there were a number of people who attended and were invited to the ‘Citizens Panel’ which included Kristina Jackson from Thurrock CVS, Residents and Sericc to name a few. Helen was happy to discuss the ‘Citizens Panel’ membership outside of the meeting.
Councillor Ralph stated the report detailed lots of activities but did not focus on what was already there in the borough and what green spaces were already being used. Helen Forster thanked Councillor Ralph for his comment and agreed that a lot of work had been undertaken and the work would continue to grow. She emphasised again the delivery framework was a working document and welcomed further input from members going forward.
Councillor Muldowney questioned the two figures for overweight and obese adults in paragraph 2.3 of the report compared to the figure shown in Figure 1 of 4.1. Helen Forster stated they were both correct as there had been a change in the way the data was recorded.
The Chair questioned whether it was the level of BMI that identified obesity. Ian Wake, Director of Public Health, stated it was the measure in identifying people who are overweight and obese.
Councillor Ralph stated had consideration had taken place to reduce the number of take away shops in the borough. Helen Forster stated that the Public Health team were working with Planning and Regeneration about how to tackle this issue and further consideration on this would be featured throughout the delivery framework.
Kim James, Healthwatch, stated that the exercise referral programme for those residents with mental health concerns or a long term condition required a form to be signed by their general practitioner before they were allowed to use a gym. Unfortunately some general practitioners were charging for this letter, some up to £80, and questioned was it not for general practitioners to support their patients and not to make money.
The Chair questioned what could be done about this. Rahul Chaudhari, Director of Primary Care, stated that general practitioners need to take responsibility for their patients otherwise those patients would be returning back to their general practitioner with health issues. Contact would be made with the general practitioners to see whether the charges could be waivered or supplemented or for general practitioners to be more consistent in their charges. The Chair thanked for the update and stated this was a very important issue. Mandy Ansell, Accountable Officer, Clinical Commissioning Group, asked for any specific details to be forwarded to the team.
Councillor Muldowney questioned the target setting and the potential of looking at a more stretched target and could pushing for a more aspirational target be more advantageous. Ian Wake stated the target of 0.5% was realistic with obesity being one of the most complex public health issues.
The Chair stated that it was wrong how obesity was categorised around weight rather than how healthy a person was. That a larger person may be considered overweight but might be healthy. That it was important to talk about health, healthy living and not just about people losing weight. That bullying on body shaming or body image at schools needed to be managed around obesity with people being encouraged to take up an activity rather than just attending weight management sessions.
Councillor Ralph questioned whether schools recognised that bullying on body shaming and body image was taking place and how were they addressing this. Ian Wake stated that a lot of the schools in the borough were now academies and this would need to be addressed by head teachers. Ian Wake stated that we cannot underestimate that child obesity is an issue in Thurrock and is rated worse than the national average.
The Chair stated that involvement in the Local Plan was vital to address how residents can get access to open and green spaces. Helen Forster stated that pre-planning applications and applications are also sent to the Public Health team and are screened with regards to recommendations on a Health Impact Assessments being carried out. Public Health are also around the table with the Housing Planning and Advisory Group (HPAG).
Councillor Kelly stated that if Members were to see Thurrock on Google Earth it would be evident that overtime some misjudgement on approving planning applications had taken place as there was little or no green areas in the borough. It was now vital that these concerns were fed into the Local Plan.
Councillor Kelly stated that the option of closing take away shops could result in empty shops in the borough and as a Council this would need to be looked into and monitored going forward.
That the Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee provided member input and commented on the Whole Systems Obesity Delivery Framework recognising that obesity was everyone’s business.
Helen Forster left the Committee Room at 8.30pm.