13 Jul 2017 Guest Blog: Blackburn with Darwen’s Joint Declaration on Healthy Weight
Beth Wolfenden is the Public Health Development Manager for Blackburn with Darwen Council.
Whilst Blackburn with Darwen (BwD) experiences similar obesity levels to the national average, the Authority has a higher than national average underweight population and very poor oral health statistics. To address these statistics and to increase physical activity levels across the life course a food, physical activity and healthy weight strategy (Eat Well Move More Shape Up http://www.blackburn.gov.uk/Pages/Eat-Well-Shape-Up-Move-More-Strategy.aspx) was developed and adopted in February 2017. The strategy was in development for 18 months before it was adopted and was taken to many stakeholders and partners along with public consultation.
It was always the plan that the first major action from the Strategy would be the adoption of the Local Authority Declaration on Healthy Weight and as both the Strategy and Declaration were intrinsically linked the consultation process included the detail on the proposed local commitments. The vision was for the Declaration to give strategic focus to the Shape Up element of the action plan and seek to gain senior leadership support across organisations. The CCG had already endorsed the strategy and having engaged with the Chief Clinical Officer of the CCG had expressed their commitment to joining forces with the Council in tackling unhealthy weight. Therefore, after the Declaration was approved by BwD’s Council’s Executive Board in April it was swiftly followed by approval by the CCG’s Governing Body early in July. And so Blackburn with Darwen Council now own the first joint Local Authority and CCG Declaration on Healthy Weight in the country! East Lancashire Hospitals Trust is now consulting on their Healthy Weight Declaration and hope to gain the strategic support to adopt a Declaration in the near future.
As a Unitary Authority signing a joint Declaration has been relatively straightforward after the extensive engagement work which was carried out during the development of the strategy along with the continued engagement with CCG as to progress on strategy development. Strategic leads and Executive Members fully understood the importance of such a commitment and were keen to have a formal ‘agreement’ to refer to when ensuring healthy weight in all policies.
A priority for BwD now is to raise awareness of the Declaration and to challenge norms around food and healthy weight and to encourage the public to be the catalyst for change. A whole Council health and wellbeing review is providing the opportunity to drip feed the healthy weight messages to all staff and to challenge them to review their own daily practice in relation to promoting healthy weight across the Borough. Public Health will be working closely with the CCG through the strategy steering group to monitor the progress of the Declaration. The support of the public is essential for success and further engagement to create a social movement for health and a creating a new norm is key. Encouraging and empowering people to have the conviction to consistently challenge examples of embedded behaviours in day to day practice, in workplaces, communities and in individuals that compromise the Declaration, however insignificant that practice may seem, can be a force for change.
Both the strategy and Declaration acknowledge that change is uncomfortable and is not always aligned with creating income, but that the action plan will ultimately lead to a healthier and more productive workforce creating a more prosperous Borough in the future.