Obesity and unemployment – what’s the link?

We all know that the rise in obesity across Europe is a significant concern. But did you know that high levels of obesity often coincide with high rates of unemployment? A recent Gallup poll shows that the longer a person is unemployed, the higher the rates of obesity, with rates reaching up to 32.7% after a year or more of unemployment. 

14 organisations from across Southern England and Northern France have come together to tackle these two issues holistically via ASPIRE (Adding to Social capital and individual Potential In disadvantaged REgions). This €10 million Interreg VA Channel project has been awarded more than €7 million by the European Regional Development Fund and runs from September 2019 to February 2023. 

The challenge tackled by ASPIRE is reflected in local statistics: whilst the national unemployment rate in France is around 10%, the Hauts-de-France region is the worst affected at nearly 13%. Obesity rates there exceeded 20% in 2016, six percentage points above the French average. Equally, according to a UN report one quarter of British adults are obese, with levels having more than trebled in the last 30 years: 63.1% of people in South East England and 62.7% in South West England are overweight.

It’s clear to see that a worryingly high proportion of people are considered as being obese and overweight in these two areas and the highest levels are recorded in areas of high economic deprivation. An OECD report exploring the relationship between education & obesity states that “obesity tends to be more prevalent in disadvantaged socio-economic groups.” Whilst eating healthily can often seem unachievable on a budget, knowledge of how to cheaply grow and prepare fresh fruit and vegetables can make all the difference.

ASPIRE will give obese/overweight and/or unemployed people the tools they need to make healthier lifestyle choices and improve their employability. Current health and employment services rarely work together to tackle the issues as one problem, despite the evidence that they are linked. The project will encourage a “grow your own, eat your own, sell your own” ethos inspiring a new model, co-created using partner expertise in both fields. 

The model will holistically combine the necessary support to increase employability with access to local healthy food produce and consequent weight loss. The model will be implemented at 7 sites and using innovative technology to enable participants to improve their relationship with food and provide them with the skills and support they need to gain access to the employment market. 

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What is Interreg France (Channel) England? https://www.channelmanche.com

Interreg FCE is an EU programme set up to foster economic development in the south of the UK and north of France by funding innovative projects which have a sustainable cross-border benefit in the Programme’s eligible regions.

For more information please contact: Sophie McGannan, Project Manager, sophie.mcgannan@nhs.net