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Agenda item

Update on the Work of the Healthy Weight Alliance


The Committee considered a report of the Director of Public Health, which provided an update of work carried out and planned by County Durham Healthy Weight Alliance (HWA) (for copy see file of minutes).


Members received a presentation from the PH Advanced Practitioner (VC,YP&F), which outlined the context of healthy weight in County Durham, key national and local drivers, work to date and planned, and shared goals for the future (for copy see file of minutes).


Councillor Charlton confirmed that she had been contacted by two different Mothers who had been in tears following the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) and notification that their children were classified as obese.  Councillor Charlton confirmed that both children ate healthy balanced meals and exercised regularly.


The Advanced Practitioner in Public Health confirmed that the NCMP was a national programme and the local authority had no control over the measurements taken and they were based on Body Mass Index (BMI).  She advised that circumstances such as where the child takes part in activities they could develop muscle mass that weighs heavy or where a child has a growth spurt were not a consideration.  Using the healthy weight pathway, it was important that where children were overweight, conversations took place early.  Councillor Charlton suggested that this information should be communicated clearly to parents.


In response to a question from Mrs Norman, the Advanced Practitioner in Public Health confirmed that the FISCH (Family Initiative Supporting Children's Health) Programme was still in operation and the HWA were looking to improve the response rate.  She added that it was important to engage with parents and have conversations about children’s weight at an earlier stage in order for the measurements to become a normal milestone.  In response to a further question from Mrs Norman, the Advanced Practitioner in Public Health confirmed that the FISCH Programme was conducted by the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) and targeted towards whole year groups in order to reduce stigma and encourage healthy eating and increased activity.  Mrs Norman suggested that a letter could be sent prior to the NCMP which explained the programme and the outcomes to parents.  The Advanced Practitioner advised that she would not wish to jeopardise the excellent take up and support of the NCMP in County Durham, at it was unique in comparison to other areas of the country.


In response to a question from Councillor Durham with regards to whether cooking courses were available on the adult learning programme, the Advanced Practitioner in Public Health confirmed that there were broad courses on offer, but this was something being discussed with Adult Services.


Councillor Jewell remarked on the way in which poverty had changed over the last 30 years, observing that years ago children were prone to being undernourished, but were now often overweight.  He suggested that diet and exercise should be addressed, but the onus should not always be on schools to pick it up, it should be something that was established within the home environment.  Environmental factors such as the use of motor vehicles also had an impact on activity. 


The Advanced Practitioner in Public Health advised that deprived areas usually had the largest number of takeaways and there was no restriction on those that were already established, but through the Councils own policies, they could restrict new applications.  There was a lot of work to do with food choices within vulnerable communities.  She advised of other work carried out in the Public Health Team such as Safer Streets, Bikeability and 20s, hopefully giving people more inclination to walk or cycle.  Area Action Partnerships were driving work forward in relation to active communities.


Councillor Reed was delighted that all children were screened by the NCMP as previously it was only foster children and queried whether children with diagnosed health issues were taken into consideration.  The Advanced Practitioner in Public Health advised that external colleagues were usually involved if children had health issues or were from complex families.


Councillor Smith advised that as a retired Paediatrician, she had experience of many parents having a false perception of their child’s weight.  The Advanced Practitioner in Public Health advised that some parents also tended to use other children as a benchmark, as did adults: 60-70% of adults were clinically obese and therefore it was considered normal.  She reiterated that having early conversations about weight could assist in addressing these challenges.


Councillor McKeon queried the system of engagement with young people and confirmed that if conversations about weight were not done in the correct way, it could have a long term detrimental impact on mental health.  The Advanced Practitioner advised that a key element of work was the mental health and wellbeing of young people and some factfinding workshops had been facilitated to consider the perceptions of children and their families.


Councillor Bainbridge suggested that County Durham News was used to promote family activities or events.  The Advanced Practitioner in Public Health advised that the focus was on activities, healthy diet and fun, and the aim was to make activities routine for communities.


The Chair thanked the Advanced Practitioner in Public Health for the presentation and advised that she had previously been an advocate for the daily mile and was delighted to see the popularity of the Active 30 initiatives.  The Advanced Practitioner advised that by replacing the Daily Mile with Active 10, 20 and 30 we had maintained a good level of participation as some schools that were struggling to find the time for the Daily Mile may have been lost if it had been pursued, whereas they were able to participate in Active 10 or 20.


Councillor Wilson advised that her local primary school was taking part in Active 10 and the whole school took part, including teachers, helpers and all children regardless of ability – the same could not be said for the daily mile as children with physical impairments were not always able to participate.  She advised that the school may not have taken part in the daily mile but were happy to participate in active 10.




a)    That the report and presentation be noted.

b)    That a further update be provided to the Committee during the next work programme.

Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714