Researchers from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration East of England (ARC EoE), along with colleagues from the University of Hertfordshire and Hertfordshire County Council have delivered a consultation with young people exploring obesity in Stevenage.
The young people in Stevenage were asked about their thoughts on obesity in the town and ideas on how to address it.
The main issue that arose often during the consultation was affordability; of healthy food, physical activities and transport. The young people said that fast food is ‘cheap’ and ‘more accessible’ than healthier options in Stevenage, and that other food outlets and cafés were ‘too expensive’ for their age group. The cost of a gym membership and other physical activities was also seen as ‘too expensive’ in Stevenage, and activities that were free were often targeted at younger children, not adolescents.
Young people also thought that provision of transport could be related to obesity in the town, as many choose to drive instead of walk or cycle. Although there are cycle and footpaths in the town, they argued that the ‘reliability’ of public transport encourages people to drive.
Suggestions for addressing the obesity problem included; cultivating a healthy environment in the town by banning cars in the town centre and regulating the advertising of unhealthy foods as well as a community and school-based approach, such as raising awareness of local sports clubs and more education on healthy eating and obesity.
"Professor Wendy Wills, Theme Lead for ARC EoE Prevention and Early Detection Theme and Director of the Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care (CRIPACC) at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “Childhood obesity has been identified as a health priority locally and involving young people is an important part of developing solutions. We started the sessions by looking at general issues rather than focusing exclusively on obesity, which allowed young people to identify a broad range of factors that might not be ordinarily linked to obesity. They discussed what it was like to live in Stevenage and identified themes around affordability, crime and anti-social behaviour, transport and places to go and eat.”
Addressing Obesity in Stevenage, Hertfordshire: A Consultation with Young People was funded by National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration East of England (ARC EoE) programme.
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