With figures showing that more than one in every ten children in the Welsh capital aged 4-5 are obese, as well as around one in every four adults aged 45-64, Cardiff’s Liberal Democrat councillors are calling on the Cardiff Council to take a lead in drawing up and delivering a strategy for combating obesity amongst the city’s wider community.
They have tabled a motion for debate at the full council meeting taking place on Thursday 19 July. The motion, which is proposed by Penylan councillor Rodney Berman and seconded by Pentwyn & Llanedeyrn councillor Emma Sandrey, asks the council’s administration to work with partner organisations in the city, including Cardiff & Vale University Health Board and Public Health Wales, to draw up a strategy that includes proposals aimed at reducing levels of obesity amongst both adults and children over the next 5-10 years.
Ahead of the debate, Councillor Rodney Berman said: “The figures on the rates of obesity in Cardiff are quite shocking and the impact of obesity on the health of the community is increasingly being recognised as an issue that our decision-makers need to address. Being obese quite simply makes people more likely to suffer from a number of chronic diseases – such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer – and therefore more likely to die early. It’s no wonder the Local Government Association for England and Wales has described it as one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, with the World Health Organisation also having warned that being overweight or obese is the second most avoidable cause of cancer after tobacco.
“We have seen a good degree of success in recent years in reducing rates of smoking through changes to public policy. Tackling obesity is surely the next big challenge to which we should be turning our attention, but Liberal Democrat councillors in Cardiff have repeatedly raised concerns over the last year that the issue isn’t being given the attention it deserves within the council’s key policy programmes.
“We don’t think this is just an issue that should be left to health service providers, however. We think the council should be playing a pivotal role in making sure action is taken across different organisations as well as making sure that action is co-ordinated across a number of its own policy areas to ensure we take a fully joined-up approach. In our view, this must also include working with the city’s schools, as well as within less affluent communities where evidence suggests the problem may be worse.”
Councillor Emma Sandrey, who will be seconding the motion, said: “Clearly obesity is not just a problem in Cardiff, but we should be doing what we can to learn from good practice elsewhere. The recent BBC programme, Britain’s Fat Fight, featured Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Newcastle Cancampaign and it would be great to see a similar city-wide campaign launched here along similar lines – helping communities across the city to work together to help people lead healthier lifestyles and reduce their weight.
“Our motion asks the council to give consideration to lots of different ideas that we think could help make a difference. For instance, the council could work with restaurants and cafés across the city to ensure there is more nutritional information provided so people can have a better idea how many calories they may be having when eating out. We know from an experiment conducted in Cardiff which featured in one of the episodes of Britain’s Fat Fight that families in our city struggled to find such information when going out for a meal, so why doesn’t the council try to do something about that?
“We could also look at ideas like banning junk food advertising on council-controlled advertising sites, adopting planning policies like those adopted by Gateshead which make it harder for new take-aways to open in communities where there are high levels of obesity, and providing more public water fountains or water-refill stations so that people have more easily-accessible options as an alternative to sugary drinks.”
Councillor Berman concluded: “What we are asking for isn’t rocket science, but it could make a difference to many people’s lives and help us to become a healthier city. I hope the council’s Labour administration will back our very sensible suggestions to give this issue the priority it deserves.”
The motion proposed by Councillors Berman and Sandrey is as follows:
This Council notes:
- Obesity is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as excessive body fat that presents a risk to health, and is recognised as a major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases (including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer).
- The WHO has warned that being overweight or obese is the most important avoidable cause of cancer after tobacco, and the Local Government Association has argued that obesity is considered to be one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.
- Across the UK, published statistics show that the prevalence of obesity – as defined by having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or more – increased from 15% of adults in 1993 to 27% in 2015.
- Data published by the Public Health Wales Observatory shows the percentage of adults in Cardiff who reported to be obese through the Welsh Health Survey for 2009-12 was 15% for those aged 16-44, 26% for those aged 45-64 and 18% for those aged 65+.
- The prevalence of obesity amongst children in Wales is increasing. Whilst the latest statistics published by Public Health Wales from the Child Measurement Programme for Wales show that Cardiff fares better than the majority of other local authority areas in Wales, they nonetheless show that the percentage of children in the city aged 4 to 5 who are obese was found to be 10.7% in 2016-17, up from 9.4% in 2015-16.
- Data from the Child Measurement Programme for Wales also shows a higher prevalence of obesity amongst children living in the most deprived areas in Wales compared to those living in the least deprived, with a similar correlation between deprivation and obesity prevalence in adults also being identified within the data from the Welsh Health Survey for 2009-12.
- Following on from commitments in the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017, the Welsh Government has recently announced it is in the process of developing a 10-year healthy weight strategy which it will consult on later this year.
Recognising the seriousness of this issue in Cardiff and its impact on the health of our citizens, this Council therefore calls upon the Cabinet to:
- work with relevant partner organisations (including Cardiff & Vale University Health Board and Public Health Wales) to draw up, and bring back to full council for consideration later this year, a 5-10 year strategy aimed at reducing the prevalence of obesity amongst both adults and children in Cardiff; and
- in developing this strategy, give due consideration to incorporating the following proposals:
a. setting challenging but realistic local SMART targets to work towards a reduction in obesity prevalence amongst children and adults in Cardiff
b. including specific targeted actions aimed at tackling obesity amongst children (including through working with the city’s schools) as well as amongst those living in the city’s more deprived communities
c. undertaking a city-based public awareness campaign along the lines of Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall’s “Newcastle Can” campaign (https://www.newcastlecan.com/), as recently featured on the BBC One programme “Britain’s Fat Fight”
d. working with local businesses to promote greater provision of nutritional information, possibly through a voluntary scheme involving smaller food outlets such as independent cafes and restaurants, to give customers the ability to make better informed choices when eating out
e. imposing a ban on junk food advertising on all council-controlled advertising sites, including bus shelters, along the lines of similar proposals recently announced by the Mayor of London in relation to London’s bus and tube network
f. working towards increased provision of public drinking water fountains and water re-fill stations, to provide a further alternative option to buying high-sugar soft drinks
g. ensuring that action to tackle obesity is co-ordinated across council policies – including through the promotion of active travel within the city’s transport strategy, the local planning framework, and through recognising the important contribution of leisure services
h. exploring the possibility within local planning policy of developing “healthy zones” where the number of fast food outlets is limited, as well as the possibility of adopting supplementary planning guidance with similar requirements to Gateshead Council’s supplementary planning document for hot food takeaways which requires consideration to be undertaken of where children congregate, the numbers of hot food takeaways already in existence and the existence of high levels of obesity
i. consider best practice from other cities which have adopted local programmes aimed at tackling obesity, including Amsterdam which oversaw a 12% reduction in the number of overweight and obese children between 2012 and 2015