Now is the time to act: Active Oxfordshire responds to new Better Health Campaign
Posted: Mon, 03 Aug 2020 13:52
Right now, we are living with a COVID-19 pandemic, an obesity health crisis and two-thirds of our nation above a healthy weight. It takes a pandemic to highlight an epidemic: the obesity health crisis is everyone's business priority, and we must act now.
Increasing activity levels is a critical part of the solution to help achieve healthy weight. We know that by empowering our community to get active, we will protect Oxfordshire's health, boost immune systems and reduce the adverse effects of COVID-19. Professor Roger Kirby (Royal Society Medicine) quite simply advises: 'Lose weight, keep fit and keep the virus at bay'.
The Government's new Obesity Strategy – key points
- This strategy focuses on targeting obesity as it is associated with reduced life expectancy and a risk factor for a range of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes and many cancers. This has been widely known for a considerable length of time. The impact of COVID has now identified that being overweight / obese or living with obesity increases the risk of dying from COVID.
- COVID has also highlighted inequalities and will exacerbate them. Living in an area of high deprivation doubles the risk of death from COVID, and BAME and deprived communities are at greater risk of dying from COVID. Obesity is more common in deprived areas; some BAME populations are susceptible to obesity-related disease.
- The key principles of the strategy: 'encouraging the whole nation to use this moment to kick start our health, get active and eat better' signals the start of the government's effort to shift healthcare to focus more on public health and prevention, which was already a key focus within the NHS Long Term Plan (2019)
- Key interventions include the launch of a major new national campaign, Better Health, alongside expanded weight management services available through the NHS, legislation on large food businesses to provide calorie labels, legislation to end promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) by restricting volume and advertising of foods HFSS banned before 9pm.
- The strategy also sets out plans for PCNs to be offered training for their staff to become healthy weight coaches and for GPs to prescribe cycling.
What's already happening in Oxfordshire to boost activity levels?
a) County-wide Physical Activity pathway development for people with long term conditions, including those overweight / obese
b) 'Active Reach' – Sport England Tackling Inequalities Fund focused on Greater Leys and expanding to areas of Banbury.
c) Active Medicine – a training programme for healthcare professionals and other front-line workers to confidently promote and discuss physical activity with patients / those in need.
d) GO Active Outdoors – promoting outdoor space in Oxford city to get people active, including green spaces and waterways
e) GO Active Get Healthy - Diabetes – a CCG funded programme to support people with diabetes, manage their health through enabling and empowering patients to be physically active
f) FAST – (Families Active Sporting Together) - Cherwell District Council's programme funded by Sport England together with partnership funding, provides accessible physical activity and sport for families in Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington.
g) Bikes for Key Workers – an initiative developed with partners in response to COVID-19 to provide free bikes for key workers across the county: over 200 bikes distributed to NHS and social care workers.
What must we do now?
- Join the dots - make the connections! Provide the critical links across systems and sectors where individuals and our communities are helped to shape their circumstances, increase physical activity opportunities (and healthy eating) to achieve healthy weight and ultimately improve their health.
- Work collaboratively with our colleagues from Public Health, CCG, third sector partners and PCNs. We must adopt an intersectional approach that is representative of our communities and empowers local people to achieve lasting change.
- Forget the hierarchical approach to ways of working, traditionally employed across public sectors. There should not be any dividing lines delineating organisation's strategic priorities when it comes to addressing the health of our population.
This is a crucial moment when we must come together with one shared goal: to tackle the epidemic of obesity, fight the rising health inequalities that are happening right now across our county and create a joined-up approach to achieving long-term change. If we don't, we are destined to spend more on treating the outcomes of obesity rather than the root causes.