HIVE Portsmouth, a collective of statutory, voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations working to develop a happier, healthier and more connected city, has begun its latest Project Bridge on childhood obesity. Project Bridge is the name given to an independently facilitated project which brings together a variety of partners to work on innovative solutions.

In Portsmouth, nearly a quarter of children are overweight or obese in Year R, rising to over a third by Year 6 - both higher than the national average. Obesity is also more common in areas of higher deprivation. Leaders across the Portsmouth health and care system, who make up the Health and Wellbeing Board, have committed to addressing obesity in the city.

Attending the first Project Bridge workshop were representatives from areas including health visiting, the school nursing service, maternity, leisure, foster carers, paediatrics, the voluntary sector and staff from Portsmouth City Council.

A number of themes were agreed by the attendees as priority areas to tackle in reducing child obesity. These include:

  • The easy availability and promotion of cheap unhealthy food
  • A reduction in children being active through factors such as a rise in technology use, safety concerns and reduced outdoor play.
  • A focus on prevention rather than cure through support for families from pre-conception onwards.

Top-level ideas to address these issues were discussed with the next workshops looking to refine these initial ideas and agree an action plan for implementation.

Dr Jason Horsley, Director of Public Health at Portsmouth City Council, said. "Child obesity is a nationwide concern, and one which challenges us locally in Portsmouth.  A startling fact provided by a Paediatrician attending the Project Bridge, is that 90% of children who are obese will go on to be obese in adulthood and we know the serious health and wellbeing implications that this has. It's said that it takes a village to raise a child.  We have a city, and a great opportunity to tackle this together.

"The council has launched a number of initiatives linked to childhood obesity and whilst they've been successful, this is a hugely complex issue, which no organisation is going to be able to fix alone, especially not as quickly as we need to."

Dr Jason Horsley added, "The attendance, enthusiasm and ideas from the first workshop were inspiring and it's clear that people want to play a role in tackling this together. It's great to see HIVE Portsmouth and Project Bridge in action and I'm grateful that there's now a dedicated team and space for helping organisations to work together. I'm excited for the next workshop and developing actions for us to jointly deliver."

If families would like support with healthy eating they can contact The Wellbeing Service on 02392 294001 / wellbeing@portsmouthcc.gov.uk to speak with one of the team.