Why is it a priority?
Poor diet is a risk factor for the UK’s major diseases such as obesity, cancer, coronary heart disease (CHD) and type 2 diabetes. It has been estimated that poor diet is related to 30% of life years lost in early death and disability.
A good diet from pre-conception and throughout pregnancy is important for the health of the mother and the future health and development of the child. A poor diet in childhood is linked to incidence of common childhood conditions such as diarrhoeal disease, dental caries, as well as iron and vitamin D deficiencies.
In 2014 just under a half of Greenwich residents reported eating the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. In children this proportion was much lower with only 26% of primary and 17% of secondary pupils meeting the recommendation.
What could make a difference at a local level?
Individual food choice is influenced by a wide range of factors at both an individual and societal level. Family, friends, culture, individual preferences, skills and knowledge along with the availability, accessibility and affordability of food within the social environment influences personal food choice. In addition, local and national policy affects a wide range of factors, such as income and benefits, planning application, statutory nutrition standards and trading licenses.
Comprehensive community based interventions which involve multiple community partners and use strategy and policy to effect changes at ground level have been shown to be effective in reducing disease risk. Changing the environment in which people live and work, making food healthier and more accessible and ensuring people are supported and educated to make informed choices for their health are all likely to have the most impact when a co-ordinated, strategic approach is taken.
What are the opportunities for improvement in Greenwich?
Greenwich has a wide range of strategic and operational elements working towards improving the diet of the population from birth. These include approaches which work at the level of the individual, but also across the wider environment. Continued action across the whole system, including a robust plan to tackle the commercial determinants, for example rolling out Healthy Catering Commitment across the borough, is required. Other targets could include achievement of UNICEF Baby Friendly Status in children’s centres and implementation of a breastfeeding welcome scheme.