Healthy communities

Childhood obesity is reaching dangerous proportions in many countries and poses an urgent, immediate and serious health challenge. London is one of the worst cities internationally in this respect ahead of New York, Toronto and Sydney. Almost one in four children in London’s primary schools and more than one in three children in year 6 are overweight or obese.

We need to better understand the drivers that are prompting families and their children towards less healthy choices in London and generate innovative ways of supporting more healthy choices. Therefore we have been working with three neighbourhoods in London to examine what more can be done to tackle childhood obesity as part of our Healthy Communities project.

Read the final reports about the Healthy Communities project and its initiatives

Following an open invitation for expressions of interest, three neighbourhoods in the Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Haringey and Hackney (which are ranked within the most deprived areas in the UK and which have high levels of overweight children living within them) were selected to participate in the Healthy Communities project. The Tower Hamlets and Haringey projects were particularly focused on partnerships with primary schools.  The Hackney project was particularly focused on a local housing estate.  In each case however, the project related to the wider neighbourhood surrounding these sites and looked at daily living within that community.

The project aims to:

  • Support the childhood obesity agenda and efforts to tackle overweight and obesity levels, and promote healthier living
  • Develop a detailed understanding of behavioural and social factors influencing childhood obesity in three communities across London
  • Develop a process to effectively develop community-led solutions and build upon existing initiative

Sharing our learning from 2016/17

We developed three community-generated ideas as pilot initiatives that were sustainable beyond the life of this project. By working with local entrepreneurs, social enterprises, schools and others, each idea was developed and owned by local people and organisations. The three initiatives have been independently evaluated, including findings, process and learnings.

The full report, a quick summary of the initiatives, and the independent evaluation are all available to download.

Developing the project in 2015/16

We carried out extensive insight gathering and community asset mapping during the first stage of the project. We worked with communities to develop new ideas for tackling childhood obesity and reframed existing interventions to increase their impact.

Our early work is presented in the Healthy Communities: Stage One Report. Download the full report or the executive summary

Working with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector

We have published a guide for commissioners that sets out a variety of approaches to supporting the sustainability of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to ultimately improve the health and wellbeing of Londoners.

The guide aims to support health and care commissioners to use this innovative new model of instigating local, sustainable and place-based initiatives to upscale prevention activities. The guide will reflect the methods used throughout the Healthy Communities project including: 

  • Defining the problem using human centred design.
  • Designing and kick-starting financially sustainable business models for the initiatives which, once operating at scale, have the capacity to be financially independent of public sector funding.
  • Partnering with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, community leaders and entrepreneurs to pilot and ‘own’ the initiative.
  • Providing incubation support for the initiatives through training, business modelling, partnerships and funding.

A short, sister guide also shows how design-led approaches can be used to develop place based services and how, as part of this, business modelling can help to make sure services are financially sustainable.

The guide, Unlocking the value of the voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations for improving population health and wellbeing, is available to download