England’s poorest areas became fast food hotspots
New figures from Public Health England (PHE) reveal England’s poorest areas are fast food hotspots, with 5 times more outlets found in these communities than in the most affluent.
The data also suggests fast food outlets – including chip shops, burger bars and pizza places – account for more than a quarter (26%) of all eateries in England.
The local environment has a major influence on people's behaviours and streets crowded with fast food outlets can influence people's food choices – many of these currently have no or little nutrition information in-store.
Children exposed to these outlets, whether out with friends or on their way home from school, may find it more difficult to choose healthier options.
The new figures also show a variation in the number of fast food outlets across England, ranging from zero in some wards to over 100 in others.
Many local authorities across England have taken action to address their food environment and PHE is encouraging them to learn from each other.
At least 40 areas have developed policies to restrict the growth of new takeaways and fast food outlets, and PHE has helped develop stronger planning guidance to support other areas in doing this.
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 where children gather – including near schools, community centres, parks, playgrounds and other open spaces.
While not all fast food is unhealthy, it is typically higher in salt, calories and saturated fat, all of which can cause serious health problems when consumed too often and in large quantities.
Children with excess weight are consuming up to 500 extra calories per day, so creating healthier environments could play an important role in tackling obesity and health inequalities.
Over a third of children in England are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school – this figure is even higher in some deprived communities.
This increases their risk of being overweight or obese adults and suffering preventable diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. ■