Eat Well Be Active
Increasingly, a poor diet and low levels of exercise are becoming the norm amongst our population. Seen in both children and adults, this is having a negative impact on our overall health and wellbeing, our life chances and even how long we are living.
Whilst a lot of the time what we choose to eat and how active we are is down to individual choice, we are increasingly aware that the environments in which we spend our time often do not support the healthier options. We are also mindful of the challenges some residents face in making the best choice for their health, particularly those living in poverty.
We know that eating a healthy balanced diet and taking part in regular physical activity has many benefits and that reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is one of these. The reason we focus on healthy weight is due to the fact that overweight and obesity continues to be the most significant contributing factor to both years spent in poor health and reduced life expectancy.
Today most adults in England - 68 percent of men and 60 percent of women - are above a healthy weight, and over a quarter are living with obesity (27 percent of men and 29 percent of women).
Combined figures for Cheshire West and Chester show that 60.2 percent of adults (men and women) are above a healthy weight, with the highest rates among the lowest socioeconomic groups (2021/21 data). The number of adults who above a healthy weight has decreased in the borough, with a drop from 69.8 percent in 2019-20 to 60.2 percent in 2020-21.
Whilst this is positive, it does still mean that six out of ten of our adult population are classified as overweight or obese.
In children, the most recent data shows that 18.7 percent of our 5-6 years olds start primary school above a healthy weight. This rises to 34.2 percent by the time they leave in year 6.
Eating a nutritionally balanced diet, being more active, and being able to access support when needed is crucial to good health and wellbeing and for reducing levels of overweight and obesity, ensuring everyone has the best chance to live a long and healthy life. We know that overweight and obesity tends to continue throughout the life course, so a child living with obesity is likely to grow up to be an adult living with obesity. Also, children are more likely to be above a healthy weight if their mother was living with obesity in early pregnancy. Overweight and obesity can lead to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers and has been shown to reduce healthy life expectancy (years spent in good health).
To increase the number of Cheshire West and Chester residents at a healthy weight, we need environments which support all residents to eat well and be active. At a minimum this requires access to healthy affordable food and opportunities to be active every day. We need to support residents to manage their own health, to remove barriers and stigma associated with overweight and obesity. To make a difference, we need to work together, and healthy weight needs to be everyone’s business.
Eat Well Be Active is Cheshire West and Chester’s partnership approach to supporting residents to reach and maintain a healthy weight. In developing the framework, we have taken a life course approach (from conception through to older age) that includes all our residents. Whilst recognising the need to target those groups who are more at risk of becoming overweight or living with obesity. The framework takes a holistic approach, considering the wider determinants to unhealthy weight and the opportunities to influence these. Key to the partnership is strong system leadership and a borough-wide ambition to effect change, demonstrated by the Council’s Healthy Weight Declaration which was signed in November 2019. The Healthy Weight Declaration is a commitment to ensure healthy weight is considered in policy and practice across the local authority, making it easier for residents to eat well and be active. The Healthy Weight Declaration is also supported by partners across the borough, with Cheshire West and Chester Council being the first local authority in England to roll out the Healthy Weight Declaration Partner Pledge.
A system-wide approach to healthy weight also links closely with other Council priorities such as: addressing climate change, becoming a sustainable food place, improving mental health, and reducing poverty. In 2020 the Council declared a climate emergency; evidence shows that sustainable diets along with active travel can significantly reduce greenhouse gases. The links between healthy weight, healthier diets, physical activity, and mental health are clear. In terms of poverty, the work being done to reduce health inequalities and improve our environments – helping residents to access healthy food, both in times of crisis, but also at other times – supports the Poverty Emergency which was declared by the Council in 2020.