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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Top award for fight against fat

THE Cumbria-based Rural Regeneration Unit has won a major international award from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its work to tackle obesity.

It’s the fourth award the unit, which has its head office in Workington, has won this year - and the third in the last four months - and managing director Dan Dempsey said they don’t come any higher than the WHO accolade.

“I don’t see how we can go any higher in gaining awards after getting this one from the World Health Organisation,” he said.

Mr Dempsey leads the unit, a social enterprise which aims to alleviate poverty through the promotion of education and by providing communities with examples of how best they can help themselves.

It is one of the fastest growing co-operative movements in the UK, working across north and West Cumbria, as well as in London, the East Midlands and Wales, where it runs one of the largest voluntary contracts to be awarded by the National Assembly for Wales.

The WHO award is for its work to counteract obesity, which poses one of the most serious challenges to public health in the world.

Its prevalence has risen three-fold in many European countries since the 1980s and the trends are particularly alarming among children and lower socio-economic groups of the population.

The RRU was nominated by the Welsh Assembly for its work in Wales, where it has set up 100 food co-operatives, linked into a host of related projects including working with six formers to develop food distribution programmes and also working with Dragon Sport on fitness and healthy eating initiatives for youngsters in sport.

All of the projects have been pioneered in West Cumbria.

Mr Dempsey, who will collect the award at the WHO European Ministerial Conference on Counteracting Obesity in Istanbul today, said: “It’s brilliant. It’s a top award.

“They don't come any higher than this and I’m delighted for all the volunteers. We have had literally thousands of people involved in making this happen. It’s a people-based movement.”

The RRU was formed in 2003 and Mr Dempsey, a former Allerdale councillor who lives in Workington, has been managing director since April last year.

Since then he has helped turn its fortunes around. It was £365,000 in debt and losing £180,000 a year but is now trading in profit for the first time in its history.

It is one of the only voluntary sector organisations which does not have use of an overdraft.

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