Last week Public Health England issued their Fast Food Map revealing that England’s poorest areas are fast food hotspots, with 5 times more outlets found in these communities than in the most affluent.

The results also show that fast food outlets, including chip shops, burger bars and pizza places, account for more than a quarter of all eateries in England.

That picture is mirrored in Derby too. Arboretum ward, which includes the city centre, with 98 outlets is placed 6th on the national list. Results for wards outside the centre range from 24 in Alvaston down to 6 in Oakwood and 4 in Chellaston. Overall, Derby places 61st of 326 Local Authority areas listed. Whilst all planning applications are heard on their merits the results do show evidence that our development control policies are working as we aim to keep such outlets within the city centre.

Fast food is one of the major causes of poor diet, leading to obesity. Nationally there is recognition that it is a major and growing problem. Several initiatives to try to bring down levels of obesity in the population, particularly among children have been introduced. The tax on sugar sweetened drinks came in earlier this year, and the Government has just announced plans to get rid of the checkout battle for sweets placed to exploit pester power.

The focus on children is important: a third of children aged 2 to 15 are now obese, and an average five-year-old now consumes their own body weight in sugar each year. Sadly, we know that patterns of diet and activity set in childhood are difficult to change later in life, and a large proportion of overweight adults were overweight as children, so we need to start healthy habits as soon as possible to give our children a healthier future.

In Derby, the Part 1 Local Plan was adopted by the Council in January 2017, this document guides how the City will develop over the next decade.  A key part of the Plan is to ensure that people are provided with opportunities to adopt and lead a healthy lifestyle. The Local Plan ensures that people can access high quality open spaces, outdoor and indoor sporting facilities and are able to adopt walking and cycling as an alternative to the car.  The plan also seeks to ensure that all new development will contribute to a healthy environment by embracing a high level of design, promoting security and accessibility.

The Public Health team are also working hard to encourage and enable healthy lifestyle choices. In particular, our health visitors and school nurses provide direct support to families, helping the people of Derby to provide the best outcomes for their children.

We know that breastfeeding is a key way to give people a good start in life, and we have managed to increase our numbers of mothers breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks.

Schools play a vital role in educating our children about where food comes from, growing it, cooking it and eating it, and our school meals are now far more nutritious than they used to be. The number of children having a school meal, rather than taking in packed lunches has increased but could be higher.

Some of our schools, like Ashgate Primary, for example, have signed up for the ‘Daily Mile’, making sure our children get a good fifteen minutes of proper physical exertion every day.

Our hospitals have already done a lot to reduce sugar-sweetened or fatty foods on sale to staff and visitors, and are doing more.

We know that habits are difficult to break, and that some people do not have the confidence in their cooking skills or feel they have the time to cook. However there are practical small steps to a healthier family life. Some things to try are:

  • Portion sizes: your brain tends to tell you you’ve had enough, when you’ve eaten what you see on your plate – if there’s less on the plate to begin with, you should eat less (a smaller plate helps too)
  • Drink water with your meal: the best thing by far is to drink water with a meal – fruit juices and squashes might seem like a healthier alternative to fizzy drinks, but they contain lots of sugar and are also acidic. It’s nice to have a jug of water on the table, which makes it more of a shared experience
  • Keep screen time down: no-one wants to stop children enjoying technology, but too much screen time means not enough physical activity, and the blue light from screens can also disturb sleep
  • Walk to school: the best form of physical activity is something you do every day as a routine. The daily journey to and from school is the ideal opportunity to create a healthy habit that could have lifelong benefits.

Councillor Roy Webb, Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Housing says:

“The results of this study make for interesting reading. Balancing the number of fast food outlets in the city to meet demand whilst also promoting healthy living is always a challenge.

“We want all people working in or visiting Derby to be able to access healthy food. Whilst the number of fast food outlets in Derby is not especially high, Derby is a compact city, meaning that a lot of people live close to a fast food outlet. We need to work with the fast food sector, with our schools and with parents to improve the offer and uptake of affordable healthy food.

“We hope that with the Part 1 Local Plan and with the work of Public Health we can help the people of Derby to make good choices and promote healthy habits in their children.”