27 Nov 2019 Guest Blog: A delegates experience of ‘Healthy Weight in all Policies – Two Years On’.
In our latest guest blog, we hear from Macarena Rueda, PhD student at the University of Liverpool, to discuss her highlights from attending the #FoodActive2019 conference earlier this month.
On the 12th of November I attended Food Active’s ‘Healthy Weight in all Policies: Two Years On’ conference at Manchester Conference Centre. Over the course of six hours, we were able to listen to sixteen speakers! That was impressive.
Before going into details about the presentations, I want to highlight the impeccable organisation and facilities. It was a rainy morning, trains were delayed (including mine), but the team were able to move speakers around without compromising quality, coherence or timetable of the conference. As the Food Active organisation, I believe expectations were high in this area, and they didn’t disappoint. There were delicious and nutritious options for everyone’s likes. Overnight oats breakfast, fresh fruits, hot meals for lunch, including a vegetarian option, plenty of salad and plenty of water.
The level of knowledge and commitment from all speakers was outstanding, but I’ll like to focus my review on the three that I particularly found more relevant to me. The first one is presentation entitled “The whole-system approach to obesity” delivered by Dr Duncan Radley, Senior Research Fellow from Leeds Beckett University. He provided an overview on a guide created to support local approaches to promoting healthy weight. This guide enables local areas delivering the key principles outlined in What Good Healthy Weight for all ages Look Like. I was impressed with the level of support offered by this guide. I believe it is a great resource for any local authorities that wish to identify the main drivers of obesity in their particular area with support from relevant local stakeholders and their community. It is a step by step guide, consisting of 6 phases, supported with a number of resources which will make it easy to implement. These resources go from providing workshop invitation examples to action plan templates and stakeholder surveys. Definitively worth looking into it.
From theory to practice. The second presentation that I want to highlight is “What it means to be the first? Keeping the momentum going and driving change” by Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health at Blackpool Council. Blackpool Council was the first to adopt The Local Government Declaration on Healthy Weight in January 2016. This led to a significant pressure to excel as there were many other local authorities waiting for the results. I believe they have come a long way; I was impressed with the level of involvement they have managed to achieve with the local community, public and private sector. I like the fact that there is a significant focus on tackling children obesity with campaigns as simple as walking to school, to more complex interventions, such as offering a free healthy breakfast at primary schools.
Finally, it was Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy at the University of London. Her presentation on “Municipal approaches to tackling obesity -perspectives from London and around the world” was the one I enjoyed the most. In a single word, her presentation was inspiring. I loved her work and everything she stand for. As a mother of 2 kids, it gives me hope for the future that people like her is working hard and taking actions in order to provide our future generations with the best opportunities to be healthier.
As part of the conference, there was a poster competition about “sharing good practice on local action to tackle childhood obesity”. There were seven entries, and we could all vote for our favourite on the food active website. It was interesting to see the different approaches that local authorities are taking to reduce obesity in children. They varied from programs focusing on pregnant women, during and after pregnancy (by Bradford), to others that focus on engaging with local food outlets to provide appropriate meal portions for infants and improved environment for mothers (by Blackpool). The winner and my personal favourite was Healthy Heroes (by Rochdale). They have created a Healthy Heroes Family cartoon, which includes a mum who not only visit schools talking to children about the importance of healthy habits, but also educates parents, visit parks and participates in family events.
To sum, it was a great experience; as a researcher, it is easy to get lost into theories and models. Having the opportunity to listen how people are taking actions to tackle obesity, it is inspiring and motivating. The conference has given a new perspective to my research; I can now see more clearly the potential it could have at tackling this obesity epidemic.