Public Health England has published a map showing the density of fast food outlets across the country to help local authorities combat rising obesity rates.
The map is accompanied with figures showing the number of burger bars, kebab shops, fish and chip shops and sandwich bars in each English local authority and how the numbers compare with the borough’s population.
The PHE database will now be available for councils to use in conjunction with a new toolkit designed to help councils understand links between their food and drink environment and consumption patterns.
The toolkit has been produced by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in partnership with London Metropolitan University and the Children’s Food Trust. It is expected to be published by the end of this year.
It is designed to help councils combat obesity rates by enabling them to first identify where interventions are required, develop a strategy and select suitable interventions. The PHE database will be key to helping assess the scale and nature of local drivers behind obesity.
The sort of mechanisms highlighted by the toolkit will include using planning, leases and licenses as well as healthier catering schemes, working with local schools and communities, advice and training initiatives and using ‘nudge’ techniques to influence behaviour.
‘The toolkit will emphasise the need for councils to take a ‘whole systems approach’ to local obesity rates meaning there is no single action that will solve the problem, you need an integrated strategy across the council involving a wide range of internal and external stakeholders,’ explains CIEH principal policy officer Jenny Morris.
‘There are a number of actions that local authorities can take ranging from a “soft” approach using advice and education to a stronger intervention that might involve restricting the opening of new takeaways.’
Local authorities such as Gateshead Council have been able to use Supplementary Planning Documents to ensure that new hot takeaways are not permitted in areas with high levels of obesity.Gateshead has managed to successfully use the planning process to help combat obesity by ensuring health is part of its overall local strategy outlined in its Local Plan.
Councils might also deliver change by requiring catering contractors working in their premises such as leisure centres, to improve the healthiness of their food offers.
The PHE data shows food outlet density ranges from 24 food outlets per 100,000 people in South Cambridgeshire to 199 per 100,000 in London’s west end.
The figures show that local authorities with the highest deprivation scores tend to have the greatest density of fast food outlets. Health survey data also shows that the prevalence of overweight and obese people also rises with deprivation.