Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Programme

This three year programme asks councils to lead innovative action in their local community to tackle childhood obesity. After 13 councils completed a discovery phase, five council led projects have now been selected as Trailblazer Authorities.


More than one in five children are already overweight or obese on entering Reception. This rises to one in three in Year 6. There is a ‘deprivation gap’ with children from the most deprived areas more than twice as likely to be obese and more than four times as likely to be severely obese than children from the least deprived areas.

The Government published the second chapter of the Childhood Obesity: Plan for action a year ago in June 2018, setting out the ambition to halve childhood obesity and significantly reduce the gap in obesity between children from the most and least deprived areas by 2030.

Councils have a vital role to play to tackle childhood obesity but there can be significant obstacles. To address this, Government committed to a three year trailblazer programme to work with council-led projects in England to tackle childhood obesity at a local level, with a particular focus on inequalities.

Councils across England showed significant interest in the Trailblazer Programme, with 102 Expressions of Interest submitted between October and November 2018. 13 councils were selected to undertake the funded 12-week discovery phase which took place from early February to the end of April 2019. In June 2019 it was announced that five council led projects will be funded to develop and deliver their plans over the next three years through a test and learn approach.

We will be sharing the learning from these projects and others on these webpages, please see the “Sharing the Learning” tab for more information.

The Programme

The Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Programme aims to:

  • test the limits of existing powers through innovative and determined action to tackle childhood obesity
  • share learning and best practice to encourage wider local action
  • develop solutions to local obstacles and consider further actions government can take to enable ambitious local action and achieve change at scale

Over the next three years, the five Trailblazer Authorities will develop, deliver, review and expand their ambitious plans to tackle childhood obesity. Each Trailblazer Authority will receive £100,000 worth of funding and project support each year to progress their project. Support will include:

  • government expert support –  to help find  solutions to local challenges and consider implications for  future policy development
  • subject matter expertise – to provide relevant commercial/technical expertise and constructive challenge
  • delivery support – to support  Trailblazer Authorities to further explore, develop and deliver their plans
  • evaluation support  - to provide advice to Trailblazer Authorities on their local evaluation plans to ensure  that the impact of the Trailblazer activities are measured

The programme is funded by the Department and Health and Social Care and administered by the Local Government Association. Public Health England also providing expert support and advice.

Trailblazer authorities

Birmingham City Council: Birmingham plan to test their powers to influence the social and economic determinants of health to shift towards a healthier food and physical activity economy and environment. This includes a plan to use the apprenticeship levy to offer health, food, nutrition and physical activity focused apprenticeships and support growth in this sector. A city-wide proportionate universalism approach will be taken to target employment opportunities towards 15-19 year olds in the most deprived areas where rates of obesity are highest. Birmingham will also work with local universities to embed health messaging in wider employment training to upskill a generation that could apply their knowledge in the home and as future parents. The project plans to create an innovative alternative local metric, the “Birmingham Basket” which would capture local retail spend metrics to identify consumer retail habits and inform policy development and measure the impact of the initiatives.

Birmingham -

Pennine Lancashire Consortium of Local Authorities: Pennine Lancashire (Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Ribble Valley, Rossendale and Lancashire County Council) plan to test their planning powers to restrict food retailers that do not offer healthier options and to test a range of levers to incentivise them to improve their offer. The project includes a “personal planning permissions” approach to regulate the opening of healthy new cafes, restaurants, (A3s) and hot food takeaways (A5s). All six district councils will look towards permissions being granted for retailers able to demonstrate healthier menus as part of their application. Linked to an existing healthier retail programme offering free business support, retailers will be incentivised and rewarded through incentives such as free waste removal; procurement opportunities; subsidised advertising across council-owned estate, and opportunities to be part of a “health food hub”. To harness the support and power of elected members, they will develop induction packs that prioritise healthy weight and support them to become Healthy Weight Champions. Youth MPs will be supported to lead campaigns focused on food as an issue of health, sustainability and food poverty. Through links with voluntary community and faith sectors, a grassroots movement will be supported to give voice to communities advocating for healthier options with a plan to expand this across Lancashire/South Cumbria.

Blackburn with Darwen -

City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council: Bradford Council, Born in Bradford and the Bradford Council for Mosques have formed a unique partnership to explore the opportunities for working with Islamic Religious Settings, in particular Madrassas to tackle childhood obesity by supporting healthier behaviours and influencing positive social and structural change for better health in the local environment. This targeted action seeks to address the higher rates of excess weight in South Asian children in Bradford, of which a large majority identify as Muslim. Around 85% of South Asian Muslim children attend the madrassa after school for around two, mostly sedentary, hours per day from the age of four to 15. This innovative project will work with Islamic religious settings to co-produce evidence-based madrassa curriculum materials and training for Islamic leaders aligned to Islamic Narrative. Action groups will be established within participating faith settings to explore how to mobilise and connect existing community assets to promote joined up local approaches to promote health and identify enablers for systems change with wider partners. The project will co- create a dynamic model of best practice and guidance to support and facilitate change that can be tailored to a range of Islamic settings both within the district and further afield.

Bradford -

London Borough of Lewisham: Lewisham plan to test their powers to restrict high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) advertising and utilise unsold outdoor advertising space for health promoting advertisements. The project also plans to implement a voluntary restriction across the borough through contracts with major advertising estate owners working in partnership with JCDecaux, Outsmart and ISBA (representing Outdoor media owners and brands). This builds on the Transport for London (TFL) estate HFSS restrictions which cover 50% of advertising space in Lewisham, to cover all JCDecaux owned estate in year 1, taking total restrictions across 80% of out of home (OOH) advertising space. The remaining unsold advertising space will be utilised to promote tailored local public health campaigns devised with the community and support local businesses offering healthier options.

Lewisham -

Nottinghamshire County Council: Nottinghamshire plan to build on their broader whole system approach around the community food environment, to develop food skills, access and support for families with children in the early years. They will test out how Children’s Centres can be developed as community food assets by utilising the school catering services supply chain and other potential local food suppliers to offer low cost, healthier foods and recipes enabling families to develop their food skills and knowledge. With the commitment of their school catering service, they will trial expanding the supply chain to childcare providers to facilitate provision of healthy food in line with nutritional guidance and familiarise families at pre-school age with the school meals offer to increase uptake of school meals. Nottinghamshire will explore the potential of using Healthy Start Vouchers innovatively such as through recipe boxes procured through the supply chain to increase local uptake. They will also support staff in the early years and childcare sector to develop food preparation and menu planning skills and promote consistent messages to families around food and healthy eating.

Nottinghamshire -

Sharing the learning

It is a priority for us to share learning on local action to address childhood obesity and we are keen to engage and support wider councils to deliver their local vision. The Trailblazer Learning Network is an opportunity for councils to stay linked into the programme and share their experiences to encourage and empower wider local action across the country.

We know from the applications to the programme that this issue is a priority and local areas have great ideas to tackle childhood obesity. We want to capture the learning from Trailblazer Authorities, Discovery Champions and other projects across the country in one place. The Trailblazer Learning Network will consist of the following:

  • Trailblazer Learning Assemblies  – The first assembly took place in February 2020 and showcased early learning from the Trailblazer Authorities. Slide pack - Childhood Trailblazer Learning Assembly (9MB)
  • Trailblazer Learning Webinars – Trailblazer led webinars on key themes and topics.
  • Knowledge library – We will be regularly adding new materials to our webpages here so please keep visiting.

If you would like to be included in the network please email

Need more information? Please email