Guest blog: Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance Strategic Obesity Project – Year 2 focus and next steps

Guest blog: Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance Strategic Obesity Project – Year 2 focus and next steps

To mark Cancer Prevention Action Week (19th-25th February), we heard from Matthew Philpott, Executive Director of Health Equalities Group (HEG), about Year 2 workstreams of the overweight and obesity prevention project HEG are delivering for the Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance (CMCA).

CMCA Strategic Obesity Project

Health Equalities Group (parent charity for the Food Active programme), is currently delivering a long-term project for the Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance (CMCA) to develop a ‘hub’ of connectivity, bringing together system leaders and stakeholders, including non-health stakeholders such as housing, transport, employers and VCFSE organisations, to increase the overall volume and reach of initiatives designed to improve rates of overweight and obesity within the sub-region.

As a sub-region Cheshire and Merseyside (C&M) has above average rates of overweight and obesity in child and adult populations, whilst it also has higher than average rates of cancer prevalence. As such, this project is stimulating connectivity across the system amongst traditional health and non-health stakeholders, whilst this emerging area of preventative work is also linking with existing screening services and CMCA projects on early diagnosis.

Scoping and Insight work

Year 1 of the programme had a strong focus on scoping and insight from across the sub-region. This included: two sets of stakeholder interviews from 27 leaders across the health and non-health sectors; insight from 6 focus groups including people with protected characteristics; responses from 327 people to a public facing insight survey; and, a new set of geo-demographic data correlating obesity, cancer prevalence and deprivation. In addition, a workplace weight-loss programme with a large call centre based in Cheshire has also been piloted as part of Year 1 activity. All reports from the scoping and insight phase are now available to downloaded.

Workstreams for Year 2 of Project:

The first year of the project provided a rich set of data and key recommendations for future work. It was decided that a stepwise approach to addressing the key recommendations would need to be taken over the life-course of the project, and therefore Year 2 of the project would focus on three key workstreams:

Building capacity in the VCFSE sector:

  • Development of an online resource for VCSFE organisations in C&M called the ‘Why Weight Hub’. This resource provides key information on addressing healthier weight and how third sector organisations can engage local communities in conversations about healthier weight.
  • The Why Weight Hub has repository of existing guidance, toolkits and support documents covering key characteristics e.g. older age, disabled, ethnic minority. The Hub also has a searchable directory of local support services across nine C&M places addressing healthy eating, physical activity & food insecurity, and searchable information on local weight management pathways.
  • The Hub will be promoted to grassroots VCFSE organisations through ‘social action’ leads from the CMCA Early Diagnosis and Community Engagement Project who are embedded within CVS organisations across the nine places in C&M. To enhance knowledge exchange and build capacity within the sector, social action leads will also receive Food Active’s Why Weight to Talk training ahead of launching the Hub in late March.

Using planning levers to address obesogenic and leptogenic environments:

  • This workstream is considering how local authority planning levers can be used to develop healthier environments, including: restrictions on the proliferation and proximity of unhealthy food establishments; easier access to healthier foods; promotion of active urban environments & active travel; and, access to green space.
  • The project has worked with DHSC library services across July-September 23 to collate new evidence review on planning for health & healthy high streets, including synopsis and references to 135 papers.
  • The project has also gained a snapshot of current work in C&M on planning for healthier environments and use of Local Plans by administering a survey for planning departments conducted across Sep/Oct 23; findings report now available.
  • Building on survey findings, a workshop for C&M planning officers and public health representatives will be held on 7th March 2024, including key presentations from OHID, Natural England, Active Travel England, Sustain & Liverpool City Council.
  • The workshop will focus on further opportunities for health promoting environments afforded by new planning guidance for LA’s and the potential for a shared vision & collaborative approach to spatial planning for health across LA’s in C&M.

Development of weight stigma training package for healthcare settings:

  • Talking about weight and size is an emotive subject and insight from Year 1 of the project indicated the importance of talking about overweight and obesity in a non-stigmatising way, with a specific focus on healthcare settings.
  • Experience of weight stigma works against health-seeking behaviours, whilst peer reviewed research has established that patients who have experienced weight stigma can be less likely to take up routine medical appointments e.g. cervical cancer screening.
  • The project is currently developing a training package for healthcare professionals to help address and lower incidence of weight stigma in healthcare settings. The training package is building on a survey with NHS staff on experience and understanding of weight stigma (135 returns, findings report available), and two lived experience focus groups. The training package will be piloted with a minimum of four NHS organisations (primary & secondary care) across 2024-25.

For more information about the project please see the project website:

Or contact Health Equalities Group at:

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