Published: 9th MARCH 2020

Sustrans teams up with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and Southwark Council to tackle childhood obesity

We’re excited to have partnered with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and Southwark Council to reduce childhood obesity in the south London borough by encouraging more children to walk, cycle and play outside.

Children from Crampton Primary School, London Borough of Southwark, expressing how they feel about an area in their borough

Children at Crampton Primary School, Southwark, tell us what they think about some streets in their borough

Newington ward in Southwark has been identified as an area with high levels of childhood obesity and a place where work needs to be done to promote physical activity.

Three key themes of the project

  • Play – Creating streets where children are free to play
  • Explore – Promoting childhood independence
  • Connect – Improving access to schools and parks

We’ll be working with Southwark Council, residents, primary schools and tenants’ associations to develop street designs that will enable and encourage children to play, walk and cycle in spaces away from traffic. Trials of different street layouts and crossings are set to happen this year.

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We hope to learn what works to tackle child obesity by improving the built environment and to share what we learn with others around the world. Sustrans will work closely with local people, including children, to redesign streets with their health and wellbeing in mind. Blockquote quotation marks
Jessica Attard from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity

Designing streets for people

Changing the built environment and designing streets for pedestrians instead of cars and trucks is one of the most effective ways to change how people choose to travel [1].

This project gives us the opportunity to further explore how the built environment impacts on levels of physical activity and children’s ability to travel around independently on foot or by bike.

It also helps us identify where there is a need for more green spaces.

Making green spaces accessible to everyone

Childhood obesity is a growing issue across the UK and 38% of year 6 children in London are now overweight or obese [2]. Research shows that limited access to spaces where they can run and play is a key contributing factor.

There’s also a strong correlation between areas of deprivation and childhood obesity [3]. Low income directly impacts the amount of healthy food and spaces children have access to.

Jessica Attard from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity said:

“We’re looking forward to working with Sustrans on this project. We hope to learn what works to tackle child obesity by improving the built environment and to share what we learn with others around the world.

"Sustrans will work closely with local people, including children, to redesign streets with their health and wellbeing in mind.”

Sustrans England Director Matt Winfield said:

“We’re very excited to be working with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. We know that street layout has a real impact on how people choose to move around.

"We need to ensure London’s streets are designed for everyone. And that, critically, includes children. The more streets feel safe to travel on by bike and on foot, the more we will see children out and about, able to get themselves to their friend’s house, the shops or the local park without needing to be taken by car.

"Developing independence at a young age is good for resilience and self-confidence. It also makes for healthier and happier young people who can lead active, more sociable lives.”

Cllr Richard Livingstone, Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and the Climate Emergency, said:

“We recognise the importance of making our highways safe and inviting spaces for cyclists and the vital role that walking and cycling play in improving health and happiness.

"In addition to this, walking, cycling, and less driving will help to clean Southwark’s air and address the Climate Emergency.

"This is why we’re rolling out road closures outside Southwark’s schools at drop-off and pick up times, introducing a welcoming new Low Emissions Neighbourhood in Walworth and much more.

"So we are delighted that Sustrans and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity are joining Southwark’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood work, to encourage more play and active and sustainable travel in the borough.”

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We are delighted that Sustrans and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity are joining Southwark’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood work, to encourage more play, and active and sustainable travel in the borough. Blockquote quotation marks
Cllr Richard Livingstone, Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and the Climate Emergency

We caught up one of the authors of Arup's report 'Cities alive' and Earth Wrights play designer, Sam Williams, to discuss what it can mean when we put children at the centre of how we reimagine our urban environment.

Listen to the full podcast below

 

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[1] Royal Society for Public Health (2019) Routing out childhood obesity

[2] GLA (2019)

[3] Guy’s and St Thomas Charity (2018)

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is one of the largest urban health foundations in Europe, concerned with innovative solutions to public health issues. Sustrans are excited to be working with the Charity in addressing this challenge in Southwark.