This week I would like to return to a local issue that has been weighing on my mind.
In a recent column I wrote about an interesting video I’ve seen about how people living in the US city of Oklahoma, which has had similar obesity problems to Doncaster, had collectively managed to lose 1,000,000lbs. The campaign was led by the city’s mayor, Mick Cornett, who led by example, shedding 40 of the one million himself.
It got me thinking. I wondered how difficult it was to achieve the target and what did Mayor Cornett do to help achieve it?
I thought, there’s only one way to find out, I’ll ask the man himself. I booked a phone call with the Mayor and had a chat with him about how he encouraged Oklahoma City to go on a diet.
He told me that Oklahoma City had grown into one of the most obese parts of the US, even though it had gone through a period of prosperity and unemployment rates were low.
He started looking at environmental issues to see what was contributing to the soaring weight gain, admitting he had put on over 20lbs himself over two terms of office. He found the city was great to get around in a car but not so good as a pedestrian.
He concluded the city needed to go on a diet and he would start an awareness campaign to see if people would back him. He launched the campaign at the local zoo, standing by a 10,000lbs elephant, and urged the 600,000 population to try to collectively lose the equivalent of 100 elephants.
He led by example, cutting his daily calorie intake from an average 3,000 calories to 2,000. A friend built a website for him – www.thiscityisgoingonadiet.com – where people could log how much weight they were losing and how many steps they were walking.
The campaign didn’t cost the city taxpayers anything. As an ex-journalist he knew what made a good news story and kept the local media fed with good human interest stories of people shedding pounds.
He persuaded restaurant owners to offer healthier menus and started looking at the city’s infrastructure, encouraging residents to press for the development of more leisure spaces.
He worked with the business community, selling the importance to them of having a healthier workforce, with less absenteeism due to obesity-related ill health. Importantly, he kept telling people how important it was to eat less and eat more healthily.
Oklahoma City people were inspired enough to follow and hit the 1,000,000lbs target in four years.
Could we collectively do something like this in Doncaster? It would take commitment from across all sections of our local society, from business to health and our communities.
The benefits would be tremendous for our borough.
I’ll keep pushing for it. Are you with me?
* Dr Nick Tupper, Chairman, Doncaster clinical commissioning group