Children's health and food

Healthy high streets

3 October 2018

Finding ideas from the high street to make healthy eating easier for children and families

In brief

The Healthy High Streets programme aim was to find and test solutions to improve the high street food environment. It did this by inviting ideas from people who trade on and use three high streets in London through a hyper-local challenge prize. This report is for anyone interested in the Healthy High Streets programme and particularly for those responsible for engaging businesses and local people around the challenge of creating healthier food environments.


Executive summary

In the first stage of Healthy London Partnership’s Great Weight Debate in 2016, Londoners highlighted concerns about the food environment, including the abundance of fast food outlets and the difficulties and costs of finding healthy food. Whilst of course, the causes of childhood obesity are acknowledged as being multi-faceted, the ready availability of calorie-dense food, within a more complex set of factors, is recognised as a significant issue. Foods from fast food outlets and restaurants tend to be more energy-dense than the equivalent foods prepared at home, and take-aways are of particular concern.

Public Health England and others have highlighted that outlets selling fast food have clustered in areas of deprivation, and that the density of fast food and other unhealthy outlets is linked to high levels of child obesity. Whilst central London has seen a growth in healthier fast food outlets and restaurants, this trend has not yet spread to greater London and in particular not to poorer areas.

It is not obvious what the best solutions are for improving the high street food environment, to make healthy options more accessible and more attractive. The chances are that a single solution won’t work – a mix of incentives and regulation will most likely be needed (including those that make unhealthy options less abundant), and solutions for improving the high street environment will need to sit alongside other actions that relate to the different parts of people’s lives (home, work, school, social spaces and activities, the wider outdoor environment).

Healthy High Streets was designed as a rapid, small scale programme to learn quickly about the potential of local, and particularly food business based solutions to childhood obesity, and to inform future work by the programme partners and others.

Specifically, the partners wanted to:

  • Increase engagement with local businesses and local champions
  • Learn about local business motivations and potential to be part of solutions
  • Learn more about local perceptions of the challenge of childhood obesity
  • Find and learn about new practical solutions through a hyper-local innovation challenge


In collaboration with

Innovation Unit logo    Battersea Power Station Foundation logo     Healthy London Partnership logo

Read the 'Healthy high streets' report