A new programme using e-mail alerts, chat rooms and on-line notice boards has been developed to fight “consistently high” levels of obesity in the East Midlands.

The programme is highlighted in the annual report of the chief medical officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson. He said the same issue was highlighted in last year’s report as one “requiring action.”

The current report said that in the past year, new regional networks for physical activity and food and health had been set up. These included services such as e-mail alerts, chat rooms and an on-line notice board which could be accessed at any time.

A spokeswoman for the East Midlands Regional Public Health Group said the e-mail alerts, chat rooms and online notice boards were for food and health experts to keep in touch and share best practice. Members of the public would be served by local primary care trusts and not directly by the regional networks.

The region has also established a new pilot scheme, Working Well, to make sure these initiatives are also extended to the workplace. This offers advice on healthy eating, physical activity and awareness of cholesterol. But the 2006 report says that “despite progress, there is more to do.”

It adds: “Measure are now being taken to look at how leisure centre staff and school nurses could receive further training to help people consider diet and activity levels and support them in maintaining a healthier lifestyle.”

Professor Donaldson’s annual report for the South-west highlighted a new web-based programme which tracks the response to and damage caused by “environmental events.”

The new multi-agency environmental surveillance system has been pioneered by the South West Regional Health Group and the Health Protection Agency. About 70 local and regional agencies are also taking part in the online scheme. The report said the scheme was now being evaluated and may be rolled out nationally later this year.

Under the project, all the reporting agencies and primary care trusts have access to a website carrying information on “environmental events.”

All of them can post information of a new incident on the password-protected part of the site. The website also has a wide research facility which gives details of similar incidents and how they were managed.

Under the scheme, more than 70 incidents were reported between October 2005 and March 2006.

Nearly half involved “actual exposure to hazardous substances” ranging from domestic fuel oil leaks to an ammonia leak at a refrigeration plant.

The scheme had also already begun to prompt changes. The report said that one hazardous materials group was reviewing its alert and notification arrangements. A fire service was also reviewing its equipment and response process.