Guest Blog: Pennine Lancashire Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Success

Guest Blog: Pennine Lancashire Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Success

Following the announcement of the five successful trailblazers today by Public Health England and the Local Government Association, we hear from one of the successful applicants – Beth Wolfenden, Public Health Development Manager from Blackburn with Darwen – to find out more about their journey so far on the trailblazer and vision for the next three years of the programme.

Food Active were delighted to support the vision during the Discovery Phase and our congratulations go to the team at Blackburn and across Pennine Lancashire!


What does the trailblazer entail?

The Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Programme (COTP) seeks innovative action to tackle childhood obesity at local level. The programme is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and managed by the Local Government Association with support from Public Health England. It is intended to test the limits of existing powers and developing solutions to local obstacles aiming to enable ambitious local action and to achieve change at scale.

After submitting an Expression of Interest we were informed on 24th January that we had been shortlisted to progress onto the ‘Discovery Phase’ of the Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Programme to submit a full application.  This phase proved to be very intense and all-consuming with attendance at three workshops led by FutureGov in London, Birmingham and Leeds, extensive engagement with communities, A3 and A5 businesses, planners and Elected Members across the six districts of Pennine Lancashire which includes, Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale, the development of a full submission and an area visit by PHE, DHSC and LGA.

The Discovery Phase findings were to shape the final submission and was led on our behalf by Food Active who developed numerous briefing documents, engagement tools and of course the Discovery Insight Report which is a mighty 72 pages long!

The key findings highlighted the hugely untapped power of the Elected Members in key decision makers and influencers in tackling unhealthy weight and the opportunity for them to drive place-based prevention for children and young people in Primary Care Neighbourhoods.

We also realised that there is the potential to develop a positive approach to planning which encourages healthy food establishments by use of personal planning permissions.  Business engagement was the hardest but presented an opportunity to work with a small number of different types of food businesses to develop and test business support packages.  There was also evidence of strong support for healthier food options from across a range of stakeholders including elected members, parents, children and young people and business owners themselves.

So what are the plans for Pennine Lancashire?

Very briefly, we will be working on four key areas during the three-year programme:

  • Planning develop a common approach to positive planning policy across the Pennine Lancashire districts through Planning for Health Supplementary Planning Documents
  • Elected Members develop and empower Elected Members as key system leaders to champion healthy weight in their districts through tailored member induction programmes, inter district peer mentoring and supporting elected members in their roles within Primary Care Neighbourhoods
  • Recipe 4 Health Business Support Programme – develop an innovative incentivised support package which includes free or reduced cost waste removal and advertising, access to a nutritionist and celebrity chef masterclasses and support
  • Building a Social Movement in the Community – develop the ‘Big Junk Food Debate’ which will encourage conversation about any food related issues and drive the demand for healthier and affordable options in more local hot food takeaways and cafes

As a Trailblazer site we will be sharing learning across regional and national networks through workshops, focus groups and learning webinars and assemblies.  We hosted the Minster for Public Health and Primary Care, Seema Kennedy MP, to launch the Trailblazer programme in Blackburn on 20th June and are now looking forward to starting the real work of turning our Trailblazer visions into reality.  We know there will be bumps and failures on the way but also success too and with that comes a great deal of learning to share along the way.


Congratulations to the other four local authorities who were successful, including Birmingham, Bradford, Nottingham and Lewisham and a big well done to all of the other local authorities involved in the process. The standard of applicants was extremely high and the process was very competitive. For the trailblazers not chosen, the intense discovery phase will have developed new ideas and partnerships which can be taken forward in their own areas.

Follow this link to read the official press release from the Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tackling-childhood-obesity-15-million-funding-for-local-projects


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