A health campaign in Newcastle-upon-Tyne will come under the spotlight in Birmingham as part of the city’s bid to tackle childhood obesity.
The move is part of a drive where major UK cities share expertise to tackle their main health concerns.
A study in Birmingham on male life expectancy rates will also be examined by other cities belonging to the Core Cities Network, which met yesterday for a conference at the Jury’s Inn hotel in the city centre.
Comprising a range of public, private and community sector members from joint hosts Birmingham and Bristol, and also Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, the network discussed their regional health concerns, debated how to narrow the health gap between disadvantaged groups and discussed the social effect of health on education, employment, poverty and housing.
Together they shared regional successes, challenges and methods of promoting economic development and improvements of health, while setting targets for programmes to promote their cities.
This, they said, would be in partnership with the Government and other stakeholders.
Among the discussed projects was “Lean East”, which has helped to tackle health and weight issues among children in the East End of Newcastle by providing opportunities for children and families to eat healthily and exercise.
It was developed following the emergence of NHS statistics showing how the area had a higher proportion of children starting school who were more overweight than other parts of the city, and is currently funded by the Government’s Neighbourhood Renewal Fund with the Newcastle Partnership.
Lessons from Newcastle could soon be used to help the current regional problem where, according to figures from the National Child Measurement Survey from 2006-07, the West Midlands has higher than average obesity rates – affecting 10.4 per cent of reception class pupils. By Year 6, (aged 10 to 11), 19.1 per cent are obese.
The event also featured keynote presentations by Professor Chris Bentley from the Department of Health and Chris Murray, Director of Core Cities, followed by workshops on a range of crucial topics including the systematic delivery of effective care, race and health, tackling obesity, and employment for health.
Peter Hay, Birmingham’s strategic director for adults and communities, said: “The network has never been used before for health issues.
“One of the issues we discussed was male life expectancy. In Birmingham, we have tested 10,000 men using simple tests. We have also looked at childhood obesity through a programme used in Newcastle called Lean East, where children get free milk, vegetables and are encouraged to do sports. As a result, lots of positive things have come from this.
“It’s been really good innovative stuff and we have been looking at how people use public health data. We have a really good cross section of policy makers in both the NHS and local government and are learning from each other.”
As a result of the conference, representatives will now visit the other cities to learn more about their regional health projects.
Mr Hay added: “There are a number of people coming to Birmingham to see what we have.”
Councillor Sue Anderson, Birmingham City Council’s health and wellbeing partnership chairman and cabinet member for adults and community, said: “Over the last few decades, there have been impressive social economic and health improvements in this country. However, it is recognised that a person’s life expectancy and wellbeing should not be dependant on their place of birth or social status.”
The conference was also attended by representatives from Birmingham City Council, Birmingham East and North PCT, South Birmingham PCT, Heart of Birmingham PCT, and the voluntary and community sectors.