Birmingham City Council: Year 1 update

The Childhood Obesity Trailblazer 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. Birmingham plans to test its powers to influence the social and economic determinants of health to shift towards a healthier food and physical activity economy and environment.

Background to area

  • Birmingham is the largest local authority in Europe and the UK’s second city.
  • The city has a younger population, a more diverse background and higher than average levels of deprivation compared to the rest of England.
  • Birmingham has high levels of deprivation with 40% of the population living in the 10% most deprived areas of England.
  • Birmingham’s childhood obesity levels have been above national average since 2006/7. Furthermore, there is a clear social gradient as children living in deprived communities are at an increased risk, and this gap is widening overtime.
  • Birmingham evidences many of the key determinants of obesity, it is a superdiverse city with a wide variation in deprivation and ethnicity and, it is a young city with 46% of its population aged under 30 years.

What is the project trying to achieve?

  • Birmingham plans to test its powers to influence the social and economic determinants of health to shift towards a healthier food and physical activity economy and environment.
  • Birmingham has identified the following interventions for their trailblazer programme that are split into work packages (WPs).
    • WP1: Planning and Development. Through planning and development levers, they will scope how policies and guidance deliver measurable outcomes against the drivers of childhood obesity. For example ensuring that community food growing opportunities are maximised; connectivity and active travel is prioritised, and that opportunities for habitual and planned physical activity and sport are enhanced.
    • WP2: The Birmingham Basket. The development of a “Birmingham Basket”. This will reflect the national shopping basket, but at a local level, giving Birmingham the ability to be able to identify localised baselines of consumer habits, and be able to use these baselines as levers to effect change, to measure these changes, and to be able to report success.
    • WP3: Education, Training, Employment and Skills. Birmingham will use the apprenticeship levy and the large-scale employment and training programmes within the city to achieve a number of outcomes including: health and wellbeing content being specifically built into pre-employment training programmes; the development of apprenticeships in the city that focus on food, nutrition and physical activity, and ensure that more local people get into meaningful employment. Birmingham will 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.

Progress (July 2019 - June 2020)

  • Established ‘Creating a Healthy Food City’ Forum reporting to Health & Wellbeing Board, chaired by Cabinet Member for Health & ASC
  • Lead partners identified across WP1, WP2 and WP3
  • Final version of the Healthy City Planning toolkit agreed to be piloted through Perry Barr Phase 2 Commonwealth Games development site.
  • Initial high-level meetings with economic growth department and education & skills in BCC to scope inclusive growth opportunities. Responses have been positive, common ground is agreed and partnerships are being established.
  • One of the largest redevelopment and regeneration programmes in Birmingham (East Birmingham Redevelopment Plan) has agreed that a healthy food economy will run through the strategy as a key objective.
  • Analysis of YouGov ‘Food Concerns’ survey using a Birmingham sample and met with Kantar and ONS to review the sample.
  • Seldom Heard Voices Food Survey, shortlisting complete, 27 local (expert) providers appointed to carry out consultation within communities across 23 community groups.
  • Work undertaken to gather FSA held data on food production and retail in the city.
  • Great City Digital Food Hunt to map data sources across the food system in Birmingham completed.
  • First meeting of the Birmingham Basket task and finish group has taken place; the outcomes are being written up and a date set for the next meeting
  • Established a spiral curriculum development task and finish group and identified University Hospitals Birmingham identified as a possible candidate for 1st trial of the curriculum
  • Forward plan of workshops with food businesses has been developed through engagement with inclusive growth department to understand their pipeline needs
  • Mapping of level 1 to 7 Apprenticeship models and Pre-apprenticeship landscape in Birmingham.
  • Met with a series of apprenticeship providers to understand how best to develop spiral curriculum. In-principle agreement to embed the spiral curriculum into employment and skills programmes
  • Met with the commissioners of employment and skills programmes across Birmingham. In-principle agreement to embed the spiral curriculum into future commissioning specifications for employment and skills providers in Birmingham
  • University Hospitals Birmingham identified as a possible candidate for 1st trial of spiral curriculum
  • Establishment of a spiral curriculum development task and finish group and an evaluation group is in progress.


  • The identification of complementary strategies, policies, programmes and projects (both internal and external) have provided essential vehicles to progress through the necessary milestones to continue momentum of the trailblazer programme.
  • Mapping of food indicators against the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact indicator suite found many gaps.
  • Citizens have said that the food environment of the city is not supporting them to live healthy lives and asked us to change this.
  • Committed to developing a new strategy to Create a Health Food City and through this there is a need to be able to track impact and progress in terms of food consumption at meaningful scale.
  • Lack of good practice examples of sustainable healthy food businesses for low socio-economic markets or entry points.
  • Do not assume that the data, information and insight on food is available. This is a local and national issue for food system and there is a significant gap in accessible data on consumption of food at a local authority level or sub-geography level. For example, the Birmingham Digital Food Hunt in June 2019 identified very limited access or availability of local level data on the food system. None of the national data sets on food have a large enough sample size in Birmingham to be representative.
  • Poor understanding of food system at local level, this has improved significantly but national over-focus on fast food A5 has distorted people’s understanding of the food system process.
  • Significant benefit from Milan Urban Food Policy Pact network which has helped to understand more of the food system in a way the current UK policy approach doesn’t support.