Can planning help tackle Britain's obesity crisis?

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The UK’s obesity crisis continues to escalate with predictions that over half of the adult population could be obese by 2020².  This is a major social, economic, health and financial issue, comparable in scale to the challenges of the 19th Century urban slums which saw planning, housing and public health come together as a solution. Planning in its wider social, economic and environmental role must play an important part in promoting developments coming forward through the planning system which will contribute to a healthier weight society.

 The Town and Country Planning Association along with Public Health England (PHE) and other partnersᵌ will launch the next stage of the Reuniting Health with Planning initiative - Healthy Weight Environments by Planning and Design with a series of workshops with local authorities across England.

The workshops will explore ways in which the planning and design of the built environment can contribute to encouraging healthier populations through promoting active lifestyles, providing access to quality green spaces and food growing opportunities, high quality open spaces and opportunities for play, sport and recreation within our high streets, in particular when bringing forward different development types through the planning process. They will bring together different disciplines from across public health and the built environment with a collaborative spirit to tackle the obesity challenge.

 Kate Henderson, TCPA Chief Executive said:

  “The planning system evolved from the public health movement, and has an important role to play in delivering high quality environments that present opportunities for healthier lifestyles and support communities in making healthy choices. It is vital that we place public health back at the heart of planning in order to help address the obesity crisis in Britain today, and this will involve planners and health professionals coming together to identify local health needs.  By working collaboratively we can both reduce health inequalities and costs to the tax payer.”

 Dr Ann Marie Connolly, Director Health Equity and Place at Public Health England, said:

“PHE is working to help local authorities tackle the environmental causes of obesity and physical inactivity. These are interlinked and complex but we are working on practical solutions, like guidance on the regulation of take-away fast food outlets using tools like exclusion zones near schools. We will continue to work with partners like TCPA to find innovative ways to use planning to tackle poor health and obesity.”

 Workshops will be held with the following local authorities:

  1. Sefton Council - 21 August, Sefton
  2. Hertfordshire County Council - 2 September, Stevenage
  3. Luton Council - 5 September, Luton
  4. Stockport Council - 8 September, Stockport
  5. Lincolnshire County Council - 10 September, Lincoln
  6. Suffolk County Council - 12 September, Ipswich
  7. Sandwell Council and the Canal and River Trust, 23 September, Sandwell

 The TCPA has been leading a series of initiatives to reunite the public health and planning professions to create healthier, happier communities and places, details of which are available on the TCPA website.

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