This note sets out key lessons on the engagement of elected members in action on childhood obesity drawn from the discussion at a webinar hosted by the Pennine Lancashire Trailblazer.
The councillor’s contribution
Councillors can contribute to action on childhood obesity by:
- raising the profile of the topic, including the important part that portfolio holders can play in raising the issue in cabinet, with the council leader and senior officers
- helping to build links and a shared understanding between different parts of the council with a contribution to make to tackling childhood obesity
- helping to build links between the council and local groups with an interest in the topic
- acting as a link to local communities – for example helping to build an understanding locally about the impact of fast food outlets, by positively engaging with food businesses and by feeding community views into discussions about then topic within the council.
There are several ways of engaging councillors:
- by approaching councillors with relevant portfolios and discussing the relevance to and contribution of childhood obesity to their areas of interest
- by inviting councillors to briefing sessions to stimulate their interest in the topic and provide an opportunity for them to discuss the issues involved.
Childhood obesity is an issue in which many councillors will have a natural interest. The task is to use that interest as an “open door” to active engagement in the topic within the council, in other organisations and in their wards and communities.
Follow the energy and the interest rather than structures. Formal structures are a way of focussing interest and engagement. It is important to generate and spot the interest first.
Remember that councillors have other life experiences which can be invaluable in work such as this. One of the councillor who spoke in webinar, for example, owned a hospitality business and used that experience in his work on this topic.
For further information about the Pennine Lancashire Trailblazer please email firstname.lastname@example.org