Tackling obesity: New NICE support for local government
Helping local authorities to tackle obesity is the focus of a new Local Government Public Health Briefing published by NICE today (Wednesday 22 May).
As local government took on a wider remit for public health in communities from April 2013, the new briefing highlights why obesity is an important issue to address and how local communities will benefit as a result. Covering a wide range of areas including working with communities and local businesses, and encouraging and supporting physical activity and healthy eating, the briefing links to practical examples and makes a case for action.
This new publication is part of a suite of briefing documents which NICE is producing to provide support to local government. The aim is to help councillors and local authority staff find out which public health actions are most effective in improving the health of people in their area, while also providing the best value for money. Based on recommendations from existing NICE public health and clinical guidance, the briefings have been developed with input from the independent Local Government Reference Group. The group comprises councillors, local government officers, and others with an interest in community health and wellbeing.
Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE said: “People being overweight or obese was estimated to cost the economy, including the NHS, £16 billion in 2007. In general, the cost of taking action to prevent obesity will usually be small in comparison with the future health benefits and the long-term cost savings from reductions in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
“NICE public health guidance sets out what works best to keep communities healthy - actions which also often save money both in the short and long-term. This new Local Government Public Health Briefing on obesity summarises our main guidance recommendations in a format specifically tailored to support local government in its new public health role. Local authorities are in a good position to take action on important local issues such as commissioning weight management services, and improving the environment in which people live to help them manage their weight.
“Some examples of effective actions are encouraging local organisations to provide information - such as the calorie content of meals - on menus, and considering pedestrians and cyclists when designing, developing or maintaining streets or roads, for example, by introducing traffic calming measures. The briefing also advises that elected members should be briefed on the local picture to help them ensure obesity prevention is integrated within all council strategies and plans.”
Responding to the publication of the NICE Local Government Public Health Briefing on tackling obesity, Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive of the Local Government Association, said: “In the current financial climate it's absolutely vital that we make best use of limited public funds available, and research clearly shows the value of public health action and its potential to save resources while improving health. This practical advice will help support colleagues in local government use our new public health responsibilities to take action on the growing obesity crisis and help millions of people live longer and healthier lives.”
Examples of effective recommendations highlighted in the new briefing include:
- Council leaders and elected members should raise the profile of obesity prevention initiatives through informal and formal meetings with local people
- Work with local clinical commissioning groups to ensure GP practices are aware of local obesity prevention and treatment initiatives
- Use existing powers to control the number of take-aways and other food outlets in a given area, particularly near schools
- Make people aware of their eligibility for welfare benefits and other schemes that supplement the family food budget
- Health overview and scrutiny committees and others with a scrutiny responsibility should assess local action on preventing obesity, including ensuring local obesity strategies have been implemented by local health and wellbeing boards
- Ensuring local authorities and their NHS partners are exemplary employers, such as setting an example by ensuring on-site catering offers healthier choices.
Notes to Editors
About the new Local Government Public Health Briefings
1. The new Briefing is published on 22 May 2013.
2. This new area of work to support local government is in addition to NICE's ongoing programme producing public health guidance. The first briefings were published in summer 2012, covering tobacco, physical activity and workplace health. Subsequent briefings cover alcohol, health inequalities, the public health outcomes framework, walking and cycling, and behaviour change.
3. NICE is also developing public health quality standards on strategies to prevent obesity in adults and children.
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This page was last updated: 21 May 2013