Background: Since the 2007 Foresight report there is better understanding of the obesogenic environment and how the planning system can impact on factors that contribute to obesity. The Town and Country Planning Association and PHE developed the Planning Healthy Weight Environment Framework. Little is known about how planners and public health professionals view the relevance of this Framework in practice. This research aims to understand their awareness of planning powers available to promote healthy weight environments, challenges they face in using these powers and demonstrate example of a supplementary planning document (SPD) as a planning power.
Methods: A qualitative methodology was employed between October and November 2018 to seek practitioner views of planners and public health professionals working in local authorities through focus groups (quantitative responses were sought through a survey), and of stakeholders through semi-structured interviews. The focus was on Lewisham and Gloucestershire, both pilots in the PHE Whole Systems Approach Obesity project, and wider stakeholders working in planning and public health in national organisations, academia and local authorities. The SPD is being created and draft presented in September.
Results: Results indicate an extant understanding of the Framework (more than 80% of respondents to the focus group surveys) which imply indirect recognition of causes of the obesogenic environment, and acknowledgement of current planning powers (regulatory, guidance and policy levers) at their disposal. However there is limited support in the form of training and formal guidance on potential applications of these powers to the Framework. This is compounded by influence of external forces, such as impact of reduced local authority capacity, competing policy priorities, silo-mentality between teams and professions, and inability to influence local political decision-makers.
Conclusions: The research will help increase awareness of political, financial and cultural factors influencing effective application of research and evidence such as the Planning Healthy Weight Environment Framework in practice. It highlights additional research is needed to collate practitioner views to fully comprehend the influence of implementation barriers to tackling obesogenic environments. It further stresses the need to recognise complex local delivery systems and governance structures with the benefits of creating locally-relevant planning guidance.
12 Sep 2019 - 13 Sep 2019