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Middlesbrough signs Healthy Weight Declaration in bid to address inequalities

Health and wellbeing

Wednesday, 21 February 2024
Local leaders at the signing of the Healthy Weight Declaration

Efforts to support people to make positive choices around food and drink will be stepped up after Middlesbrough Council signed a Healthy Weight Declaration.

The declaration aims to improve the accessibility, availability and affordability of healthier food and drink, as well as creating more opportunities for exercise.

Local leaders signed the declaration on Tuesday during a launch event at Middlesbrough Town Hall.

It comes after the Council’s Executive approved making the declaration shortly after Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke was elected last year.

Mayor Cooke has pledged to lead a healthier, safer and more ambitious town and ‘a healthy place’ is one of his four priorities in the new Council Plan.

Cllr Philippa Storey, Deputy Mayor and political lead for healthy weight at Middlesbrough Council, said: “We need to do all we can to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

“This is hugely important for individuals and also for wider society. Healthier choices and healthy weight help reduce pressure on health services and improve people’s wellbeing.

“People’s surroundings and own personal circumstances can also make it more difficult to make positive choices. We have high levels of poverty and deprivation in Middlesbrough and it’s clear we need to offer people as much support as we can in this area.”

Developed by North West-based Food Active, the declaration was first adopted by Blackpool Council in 2016 where it has been shown to have made a positive impact on policy at local authority level.

Cllr Storey said: “The Council has a massive role to play in this area. It’s important to realise that the healthy weight agenda is about much more than public health.

“We’re aiming to have all departments, from planning to environment and regeneration, working together so we can take a lead for the town, influence our partners and make positive progress.”

In Middlesbrough, an estimated 71% of over-18s are overweight or living with obesity, with 28% of mothers living with obesity in early pregnancy. 25.4% of children in reception class at primary school (those aged four and five) are overweight and living with obesity. By Year 6 (those aged 11), 42.4% are overweight and living with obesity.

Being overweight or living with obesity can be prevented, but it can be more difficult to achieve and maintain a healthy weight due to external factors and influences on people’s lives.

Robin Ireland, Research Director at Food Active and the lead for this project, said: “Congratulations to Middlesbrough Council for taking this stand.

“We all know how difficult it is to make the right choices when we are surrounded by unhealthy food, the wrong advertising messages and when sugary drinks are cheaper than water. I am delighted that Middlesbrough Council is doing everything they can to help their residents, workers and pupils eat healthier.

“I hope other councils will follow Middlesbrough’s example.”