Bedford Council tackling obesity and smoking

An Integrated Behaviour Change Service (IBCS) is being developed across Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes.

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Bedford Today’s Local Democracy Reporter, John Guinn, reports that Bedford Borough Council is collaborating with neighbouring councils to enhance health support accessibility for residents, addressing significant health issues such as smoking, obesity, and alcohol misuse.

A recent report to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee highlighted that one-third of deaths are linked to behavioural risk factors, including smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and poor diet.

Identifying issues has helped find solutions

Martin Westerby, head of public health programs at Central Bedfordshire Council, emphasised that these four factors—smoking, obesity, inactivity, and alcohol misuse—are major contributors to premature mortality and health inequalities, increasing the demand for health and social care services.

Mr Westerby noted the tendency for individuals experiencing one of these issues to also face multiple related health challenges.

However, accessing support services typically requires navigating each service independently, which can be cumbersome and inefficient.

Joined up thinking and a joined up strategy

To address this, Public Health is developing an Integrated Behaviour Change Service (IBCS) across Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire, and Milton Keynes.

This initiative aims to consolidate various support services into a single integrated point of contact, simplifying the process for residents to receive the necessary support.

The IBCS will initially focus on creating stop smoking services, weight management programs (referred to as healthy weight services), and NHS health checks, with plans to make these services flexible and adaptable to individual needs.

Central Bedfordshire Council is leading the development of the IBCS, with the service expected to launch in April 2025.

The integration of these services is anticipated to streamline access to health support, reduce health inequalities, and improve overall public health outcomes in the region.

Addressing health inequalities and improving health outcomes is key

John Dicey, Global CEO, Allen Carr’s Easyway comments,

“There are many councils across the country working tirelessly to address health inequalities and improve health outcomes for their residents with a variety of exciting new projects and the plans for Bedford, Bedfordshire, and Milton Keynes mentioned in Bedford Today sound extremely exciting”.

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