27 Jul 2017 Guest Blog: Blackpool’s Healthier Choices Award – Engagement of the Chinese Community
Nicky Dennison is a Senior Public Health Practitioner at Blackpool Council.
The Healthier Choices Award was launched in January 2017, to support Blackpool Council’s vision to be “The UK’s number one family resort with a thriving economy that supports a happy and healthy community who are proud of their unique town”.
Any business wishing to be accredited with the award needs to work through the self-assessment process. Once completed our public health nutritionist spends time with the establishment reviewing the responses and discussing where small changes can be made to make their food offer healthier. To support the business making changes we are able to offer a small incentive which could be as simple as changing salt shakers to only 5 hole shakers, providing small take away cartons or just simple advice about offering wholemeal bread, and reduced fat sauces. If a business is successful they receive a certificate and sticker which can be displayed on the premises to acknowledge the good work and let people know that healthy options are available. In addition we provide them with a menu stand to display their healthier choices and promote it on our Healthier Choices Website.
Since the launch of the award 54 establishments have been successful in being awarded the Healthier Choices Award. This covers a range of organisations including Blackpool Transport, schools, Children’s Centres, fish and chip shops, and nearly sandwich bars and cafes. This is great progress but we wanted to go further by engaging the Chinese Community, as this is a large community within Blackpool with over fifty Chinese takeaways and restaurants in the town.
The first step in engaging with the Chinese Community was through one Chinese takeaway that had been successful in achieving the award. This local business man linked our nutritionist Valerie Hutson to the CEO of Blackpool Chinese Community Association, Peter Lui, and a meeting took place between Peter and Valerie to consider how the award could be promoted amongst the Chinese Community. As part of the work an event was held on the 25th June 2017 to raise awareness around topics such as first aid, benefits, legal issues and the Healthier Choices Award. Prior to the event taking place a letter promoting the award was translated in to Chinese and sent out in advance. On the day of the event arrangements had been put in place to have a translator alongside Valerie so that those individuals with limited English could understand the presentation. A healthy Chinese lunch was provided at the event to demonstrate the small changes that could be made to improve the sugar and salt content of the dishes. On the day of the event six businesses expressed interest in working towards the award and since the event there has been further interest.
Peter Lui, explained that several Chinese takeaway and restaurant owners were initially reluctant to sign up to the award but soon overcame any reservations once the project had been explained in full.
Peter said: “When I was approached about the project, I thought it would be a benefit to our community. It was an interesting concept as the trend in Chinese restaurants and takeaways is to give even bigger portions due to huge competition amongst business.
“It was a challenge to change business owners mind. After our event promoting this project, I was surprised to find most business owners on the day did decide to sign up.”
To support the on-going partnership working, the Chinese Community Association lead has offered the support of a translator when Valerie visits the restaurants and takeaways to reduce the barriers where English isn’t the first language. Award holders make a commitment to highlight healthier choices on their menus and three Chinese businesses (two takeaways and one café) are now promoting healthier options on their menus and encouraging customers to ask for help in choosing a healthier meal. This can include food that is steamed, boiled or grilled and recipes using vegetables, shellfish and leaner cuts of meat. Making small changes can make a big difference for example a carton of boiled rice has around 250 fewer calories than a carton of fried rice. Healthier menu choices include chicken chop suey, beef in oyster sauce and dim sum. A commitment has also been made to reduce the amount of salt and monosodium glutamate added during cooking and to use healthier vegetable oils for cooking to reduce the amount of saturated fat.
Feedback from award holders is very positive with examples of customers requesting healthier choices as a direct result of seeing the award sticker, certificate and menu stands on display.
If you are interested in any further details of this work contact Nicky Dennison, Senior Public Health Practitioner, Blackpool Council