Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Programme - Key themes

Three themes have emerged in our early conversations with the five trailblazer areas. They are relationships with partners and collaboration, governance and opportunities.


The Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Programme is an ambitious programme which aims to support the mobilisation of cross-sector action in localities across England to tackle childhood obesity. A full list of the trailblazers is at the end of this webpage.

Since October 2020 Shared Intelligence have been the Delivery Support Partner for the Learning Network. Our task is to support the capture, sharing and wider dissemination of learning between the Trailblazer areas and the wider sector. This is the first of a series of learning notes we will be producing. Its aim is to share key lessons learned during the delivery of the programme and examples of good practice to support and inform action across the Trailblazer network and beyond.


Three themes have emerged in our early conversations with the five trailblazer areas. They are:

Relationships with partners and collaboration

Good relationships with partners and maintaining a collaborative approach have been important factors in making progress across the trailblazer projects. Within this, a key element has been the establishment of shared ownership amongst partners in the system of the aims of the programme and the action that must be taken. In Lewisham, the steering group ensured that there was a shared understanding of roles and ways of working as a partnership at the inception of the project. This has enabled all the partners to contribute to the different workstreams and feel a shared sense of accomplishment with progress to date. Where relationships with partnerships have struggled, often there has been a lack of a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities in achieving the programme’s ambition, and sometimes the wider health agenda.


Clear governance structures are important to programme delivery, both in terms of gaining commitment to delivering the programme, but also in terms of the additional influence gained through having strong leadership. This has particularly been recognised where elected members have bought into the programme’s ambitions. In Pennine Lancashire there has been clear governance and definition of roles where the partnership has clearly set out what action is in the gift of each partner. This has been the case across tiers of local government and between sectors, aided by a Memorandum of Understanding. Governance structures have also been important to navigate in cross-directorate elements of trailblazer activity. In these cases, understanding what different governance routes are needed in different parts of the council is essential to having a joined-up approach.


Taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves while delivering the programme can prove to be valuable in working towards ambitions. There have been many opportunities that have appeared to Trailblazers organically, including interest from local organisations who share similar values, and national organisations who support the wider childhood obesity agenda. Taking advantage of these opportunities to have conversations with different individuals and organisations have led to fruitful partnerships that have supported each other’s goals. Using these opportunities can also have the added benefit of raising awareness of the Trailblazer’s projects, issues of Childhood Obesity and the wider determinants of health, and good practice in mobilising system change more widely.

Caution must be expressed however in monitoring the risk of ‘scope creep’. Making sure to take a step back when new opportunities present themselves and identify how this new activity aligns with the ambition for the programme is essential. If the opportunity is outside of the scope of the programme, it could be something that the wider system of partners takes forward within their own work.

Good practice examples

Engagement with elected members

  • Pennine Lancashire Consortium has been successful in engaging with elected members through virtual workshops and has since developed health and wellbeing learning and development modules to develop system leadership across the geography. Embedding Childhood Obesity work:
  • Birmingham is using its leverage as both a planning and public health local authority to work towards embedding their Healthy City Development Toolkit planning policy. This has meant engaging stakeholders from different directorates within the council and navigating the different governance arrangements which exist in these different departments. Understanding the needs of early years practitioners
  • Nottinghamshire ran a survey with Early Years practitioners to understand their knowledge and skills needs for providing more information and support to families around healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. Their survey received over 270 responses and the findings are being used to inform the support given to practitioners through the Trailblazer programme. Co-production with the community, leading to wider skills development
  • With young people – The Lewisham trailblazer programme undertook a co-production exercise with the Young Mayor’s Team to develop health messages for out of home advertising, assisted by one of Lewisham’s advertising partners Outsmart. The exercise, a key part of the trailblazer’s activity, also provided the opportunity to develop awareness and upskill the young people involved in co-production with the types of skills needed within the advertisement industry and for the creation of messaging.
  • With familiesNottinghamshire has begun to undertake focus groups with families to develop a prototype of a recipe bag or box containing ingredients and recipes. The aim of this product is to provide families with access to health food at a low-cost and develop the skills to cook health meals. Linking into other local and national public health and child obesity campaigns to spread awareness of the programme and/or develop partnerships to achieve shared goals
  • The Bradford Trailblazer programme has supported a number of campaigns, through:
    • participation in a local panel discussion for the South Asian Heritage Month programme (August 2020), presenting ‘Migrating Healthy Bodies: South Asian Historical Experiences of Health in Bradford’ and presenting the work of the Trailblazer programme.
    • Sharing learning from the trailblazer and the importance of co-production and tailored health messaging for communities impact by COVID-19 with Public Health England Strategic Partnership Engagement team in preparation for the launch of their marketing campaign on obesity prevention in response to COVID-19.
    • Sharing learning on the whole-system approach to tackling obesity on the Morning Show for BBC Radio Leeds, in a discussion on government’s anti-obesity plan.
  • Nottinghamshire developed a partnership with the Policy Innovation and Research Unit whose work on developing national case studies on early years and food aligns well with Nottinghamshire’s programme.

If you would like to find out any more about the trailblazers and their activity you can contact the trailblazer teams: