Department of Health Visit to Food Active

Department of Health Visit to Food Active

On Monday 19th September 2016 Food Active hosted a visit from Department of Health at Food Active in Liverpool. Interested in finding out what is happening to tackle obesity at a local level, Emma Reed and Sharon Egan from DH decided to visit Food Active in the North West.

In turn, we were keen for our partners in our commissioning local authorities, some of our academic collaborators and our colleagues in the voluntary and community sector to have the opportunity to discuss their work.

Of course the meeting was planned well in advance and we did not expect the much delayed Childhood Obesity Plan (COP) to be published in the meantime. The agenda for the day therefore took a slight turn and following a welcome from the chair, Matt Ashton (DPH Sefton and Knowsley, Lead DPH Food Active) – who stressed the importance of working together and the strength of partnerships – Emma Reed and Sharon Egan gave their views on the COP.

Emma was very pleased the plan had now been published and that “we can now start working on the actions”. The plan, Emma explained, contains 60 individual projects which go towards three main recommendations (reformulation, sugar tax and primary school work) and has a projected reduction in childhood obesity by 1/5th by 2020. Impressive if it works!

Emma talked about the importance of engaging with local partners and working closely with local authorities and the NHS. Food Active is of course extremely well placed to provide this link in the North West.

Sharon from the Advertising, Planning and Promotions department recognised the absence of controls on junk food marketing in the COP but explained that work on this agenda was already being carried out with the recent CAP consultation. She also talked about the success of salt reformulation and the positive steps a number of industry organisations have taken to help the reduce junk food consumption e.g. The Institute of Convenience Stores who are keen to promote healthy food.

There was time for questions and answers from the audience before the scheduled presentations. These essentially presented some examples of the food and obesity work taking place in the North West; in research, targeted interventions and policy development.

Dr Martin O’Flaherty (University of Liverpool) talked about the role of diet in cardiovascular disease and recent research into the area.

Dr Emma Boyland (University of Liverpool) presented on junk food marketing to children on television and the internet.

Dr Scott Murray (Royal Liverpool University Hospital) talked in depth about the negative effects a poor diet can have on heart health and the importance of Making Every Contact Count.

Robin Ireland talked about the role of Food Active in advocating for upstream public health policy and the importance of working in partnership.

Nicky Dennison (Blackpool Public Health) presented the great work Blackpool has been doing with Food Active including the GULP Challenge and the Local Authority Declaration. Nicky talked about the steps they were taking to continually improve the health of the community, keeping food a priority for public health.

Questions were answered throughout and there was time for networking over lunch. There was discussion around local authority powers, local planning, the ‘Healthy Towns’ project and the role of physical activity in addressing obesity (important but much less so than food).

Matt Ashton concluded the session by asking the delegates to agree on some take home actions:

  1. Talk positive – feedback the great work done at a local level; don’t underestimate the effect local initiatives can have – if they are done properly they can reach far and wide
  2. Use your networks – work together, form partnerships and share good practice, we are all striving for the same goal.


Alex Holt, Food Active Lead, October 2016

Print this article


Find out more about the Food Active team and the Food Active Network

What we Do

Find out more about our programme of work and our priorities

Policy Change

Explore our work on influencing policy both locally and nationally


Discover our range of campaigns to promote behaviour change


Find out more about our research to understand and explore the food environment


Get up to speed with our past conferences and events programme