Incorporating the Lived Experience into tackling Obesity

04 May 2018

“Food can enable nurturing and caring societies.”

Important words from Corinna Hawkes to open last week’s City Food Symposium in London.  The theme of the symposium was lived experience and through a series of strong and insightful presentations the audience was urged to ensure the lived experience is rated as an important form of knowledge that is core to decision making and not just viewed as fluffy, nice or extra.

The speakers throughout the day challenged us to think about how a different approach could change outcomes and policy asks.  I was particularly struck by many presentations that are key to our work here at Obesity Action Scotland.

These included examples from Canada about developing a national food policy, from rural Victoria in Australia where empowering the community was key to tackling childhood obesity levels and from UK’s Food for Life where using a phased approach resulted in an effective programme design to ensure older people have access to good food and good company.

Wendy Wills, University of Hertfordshire, also highlighted that researchers need to “embrace messiness” when doing research that includes lived experience, urging  the audience to ensure that it informs policy.  For example, her research has highlighted that to change what secondary school children eat at lunchtime we must think about why they didn’t stay in school to eat, as well as the reasons why they left the school for their food.  Wendy has written a blog about this very issue.

There were many other excellent presentations on the day covering a range of topics and you can find links to them in Corinna Hawke’s blog about the day.

The City Food Symposium was another event which reinforced the significant reach and cross-cutting nature of food policy. Food is important to every individual not just because of taste, health impact or hunger but also because it is associated with socialising, family, friends, emotions and memories.  Valuing and celebrating good food cannot be considered in the silos of health or farming or waste but needs to encompass everything from welfare to early years to social isolation policy. 

How people experience food and how they want to experience it is a key form of evidence that should inform Scotland’s approach to these topics.  Never before has there been a greater need for a Good Food Nation Bill informed by lived experience.

Image: World Obesity Federation