City of Bradford Metropolitan District 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 The Trailblazer will harness the potential of Islamic Religious Settings (IRS) and their communities as levers to tackle the cultural, and structural drivers of ethnic inequalities in childhood obesity in Bradford.

Background to area

  • Bradford District is a large metropolitan area with a population of over half a million people, it is the fifth largest metropolitan district in the UK.
  • Over the past ten years the population has grown steadily and is expected to continue to do so.
  • The District has a youthful population structure and contains a rich mixture of ethnic groups and cultures.
  • Forty percent of families live within the most deprived areas compared to UK averages.
  • Twenty-three percent of the population are of South Asian Origin (predominately Pakistani 20% and Bangladeshi, 2 per cent) and, amongst younger age groups, this figure rises to 39 per cent.
  • Prevalence of overweight and obesity in Bradford is above the England average, and much higher in South Asian children.
  • By age 10-11, 40 per cent of South Asian children are overweight or obese compared with 32% of White British children.

What is the project trying to achieve?

  • The Trailblazer will harness the potential of Islamic Religious Settings (IRS) and their communities as levers to tackle the cultural, and structural drivers of ethnic inequalities in childhood obesity in Bradford.
  • This targeted action seeks to address the higher rates of excess weight in South Asian children in Bradford, of which a large majority identity as Muslim.
  • This innovative project will work with IRSs to co-produce evidence-based supplementary curriculum materials for madrassas and training for Islamic leaders aligned to Islamic narrative and behaviour change techniques. 
  • Action groups will be established within participating faith settings to explore how to mobilise and connect existing assets to promote joined up local approaches to promote health and identify enablers for systems change with wider partners.
  • 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.

Progress (July 2019-June 2020)

  • Brief video documentary of the Trailblazer Discovery Phase
  • Map of Islamic religious settings and briefing paper developed.
  • Attended an engagement event with Imams from Mosques across the City and explained the Trailblazer and sought feedback.
  • Conducted a literature review to identify available evidence of obesity prevention in community, cultural and religious settings, and which can support developing obesity prevention messages linked to Islamic religious teachings and behaviour change techniques.
  • Developed obesity prevention messages linked to Islamic Religious teachings and behaviour change techniques through the recruitment of an Islamic theologian.
  • Workshops held to design and co-create the curriculum material for childhood obesity prevention in mosques and madrasas using a COM-B model on three major areas:
    • Healthy diet
    • physical activity
    • structural/organisational behaviour change in Islamic religious settings.
  • Recruited a Community Engagement Manager.
  • Research ethics application prepared for trailblazer evaluation and will be submitted to University of Bradford for approval  
  • Organising four place-based groups; Key community leaders, staff of IRS, parents of children attending IRS were approached to become part of digital place-based action groups due to COVID-19. Community members consent was taken digitally.


  • The Community Engagement Manager is employed through the NHS, we learnt it takes a long while for a job description to be approved in the NHS.
  • A trusting relationship is key, it was essential to identify key Islamic leaders/ authoritative figures to act as bridge between the project team and IRS settings.
  • It is so important to spend time building rapport with faith settings.
  • The members of the manualised toolkit development group discussed the available academic literature and found that most of the available literature is outdated, reproduces cultural stereotypes with an over-emphasis on first generation South Asian populations, and doesn’t reflect the changes within current food habits and/or religious practices of British Muslims.

What next?

  • Organise three out of four planned digital place-based groups, one cannot go ahead because the setting is still closed due to COVID-19 and will join once the setting opens up.
  • Produce standard template on sessions and workshops to encourage obesity prevention behaviours e.g. healthy diet, physical activity and organisational changes within settings.
  • Test and learn on toolkit contents with digital place-based groups and subsequent refinement of toolkit contents.
  • Establish funding needs with place-based groups in line with their priorities.

Process evaluation of the delivery of programme activities.