Poorest areas in England becoming fast food hotspots

Public Health England has warned that England’s poorest areas are becoming fast food hotspots, with as many as five times more outlets found in these communities than in the most affluent.

It is widely considered that streets crowded with fast food outlets can influence our food choices, with children exposed to these outlets often finding it more difficult to choose healthier options. It has recently been revealed that children with excess weight are consuming up to 500 extra calories per day and over a third of children in England are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, so creating healthier environments could play an important role in tackling obesity and health inequalities.

Public Health England is encouraging local authorities across the country to learn from best practice, with many councils having taken the appropriate steps to address their food environment. At least 40 areas have developed policies to restrict the growth of new takeaways and fast food outlets and some have developed ‘healthier zones’ to help tackle childhood obesity by limiting the number of outlets in areas with high concentrations of fast food outlets, high levels of deprivation, or near schools, community centres, parks, playgrounds and other open spaces.

With the impact of obesity on local authority social care budgets estimated at £352 million per year, encouraging healthier choices can make a positive difference.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “It’s not surprising some children find it difficult to resist the lure of fast food outlets when many neighbourhoods are saturated with them. Local authorities have the power to help shape our environment and support people in making healthier choices. They need to question whether these fast food hotspots are compatible with their work to help families and young children live healthier lives.”

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