NHS Camden

Summer 2013

The challenge

Camden Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board had created a ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives’ task force, in an attempt to address the borough’s weight and obesity challenges. The borough had serious health inequalities, in particular among children, with Reception and Year 6 age children more likely to be overweight than national averages. The area’s fast food economy – and in particular the predominance of chicken shops around schools – exacerbated some of the existing health barriers posed by city living. Rather than doing a standard consultation, Camden commissioned TCC to run a major, all-inclusive event to discuss policy solutions with residents.

How we approached it

The turnaround for the project was extremely tight, and genuine engagement in the run-up to the event was vital. So, we carried out 500 street interviews and vox-pops across the borough, testing and gathering policy ideas, including banning drinks apart from water in classrooms, stopping chicken shops from opening near school gates, asking employers to do more to enable their staff to stay healthy, and asking fast food outlets to sign up to a ‘Healthy Catering Commitment’. Concurrently with this, we carried out 60 depth interviews with chicken shop owners, and did focus groups with 150 children.

What happened

The final event, Camden’s ‘Big Healthy Weight Conversation’ was a massive success, attended by 150 residents. It was held near Euston, and involved stalls from examples of healthy fast food outlets, speeches from local business people and academics – including one by Skype from the US – followed by interactive discussions and electronic voting on specific policies. Other attendees included The Outdoor Gym Company and Arsenal FC’s community outreach team. Ultimately it demonstrated how engagement can be a genuine two-way dialogue.