Agenda item

Childhood Obesity in Thurrock


This item was introduced by Sareena Gill-Dosanjh.  Key points included:

·       The report was requested by the Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 16 November 2023 as concerns were raised in relating to the local rates of childhood obesity in Thurrock. The report outlined the local context for overweight and obesity in children and provided an update on the measures in place to tackle to issue. This included the establishment of two strategic groups, the associated stigma of child weight management, the links between ethnicity, socioeconomic deprivation and obesity and the commissioned activity to tackle the issue of obesity.

·       Thurrock had concerning rates of overweight and obesity amongst children and adults. Tackling this issue was a priority for the Council, as reflected in the Thurrock Health and Wellbeing Strategy goal to ‘Work with communities to reduce obesity in Thurrock’. This included creating a healthier environment through place shaping.

·       A whole systems approach was adopted to tackling obesity and was led by Public Health. This approach referred to the network of broad and interlinking factors that contribute to a solution or problem.

·       Thurrock’s Whole Systems Obesity Strategy had five goals outlined and delivery was based on the previous Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA). The ambitions, goals and deliverables contained within the JNSA remained fit for purpose.


During discussions, the following points were raised:

·       Members welcomed the in-depth report and recognised the importance of obesity as an issue for Thurrock.

·       It was recognised that the National Childhood Measurement Programme (NCMP) was an opt out scheme for children in Reception and Year 6.  Parents of overweight and obese children were likely to withdraw from the programme therefore the obesity rate was potentially higher than reported.

·       Members considered various initiatives to reduce the obesity prevalence such as vouchers and schemes for fitness and the promotion of frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables to reduce costs of healthy eating. It was recognised the cost of living crisis was having a considerable impact on physical activity as activities and gyms were often expensive.

·       The impact of the pandemic was discussed, including weight gain during lockdown and that protected time was previously given to physical activity in schools.

·       Schools were recognised as a key partner in reducing obesity rates. Representatives from two schools attended the Taskforce meetings as part of sharing best practice. Officers were trying to work with academies to raise awareness of the strategic groups, however the challenges were noted. For example, some secondary schools were not offering a full one hour lunch break, however this was split into two 30 minute breaks which was not conducive for healthy eating or physical activity.

·       School meals were also raised as a concern as anecdotal feedback suggested healthy foods were more expensive to buy, therefore it was more affordable to buy less healthier options. A change in pricing could be encouraged within schools.

·       Members noted the challenges in measuring the impact of the current schemes as each workstream of the Strategy had its own deliverables and target monitoring. Obesity prevalence was therefore used as an indicator, although this was difficult to measure for adults. There was a more standardised approach for children via the NCMP.

·       The Committee were advised that over 500 eligible families were not accessing the Healthy Start scheme. The Public Health Team were working with colleagues, including those within Libraries to promote the services. Targeted social media posts were being produced in collaboration with the Communications Team.  Unfortunately, Thurrock did not have access to identifiable information for these families, however a broad ward location was assumed based on the obesity data captured within the report.

·       Members were reassured that longer term funding for the commissioned services would be via the ring fenced Public Health grant. It was previously funded through COVID outbreak monies.

·       Collaboration, best practices, and intelligence gathering were shared across weight management leads on both a regional and national level. In addition, further intelligence was gathered via local means such as Food Banks. 

·       It was noted the work of the obesity Task and Finish Group was paused and would be considered further post elections.

·       As part of Members raising awareness of local opportunities to support the Strategy, residents could be signposted to services, including the council’s website.




1.1.          Members noted the current rates and distribution of childhood obesity in Thurrock and actions taken in support of addressing this issue.


1.2.          Members agreed to raise awareness of local opportunities to support the Whole Systems Obesity Strategy and its associated deliverables.


Sareena Gill and Andrea Clement left the meeting at 9.00pm.



Supporting documents: