Healthy Weight Strategy

A Healthy Weight For All – Development of a Long-Term Strategy to Reduce Obesity

We want to see a society where everyone – adults and children, rich and poor – can achieve, sustain and enjoy a healthy weight.

We are developing a long-term strategy to enable population level healthy weight. The strategy will provide a clear blueprint for action to address the factors that lead to obesity, providing a framework for the public health community to work collectively to influence Government policy development in the future.

With nearly two thirds of adults currently living with overweight or obesity and with child obesity levels at an all-time high, the problem is set to escalate, negatively impacting people’s health and wellbeing. This situation can change with bold and decisive policies to tackle the wider environmental factors that encourage over-consumption and inactivity. Just a one per cent shift in the number of people putting on extra weight each year until 2035, could avoid around 77,000 cases of disease including 45,000 cases of Type 2 diabetes in the year 2035 alone.

Chaired by Anne Johnson, Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, the project brings together health non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with the research community to identify, to agree and prioritise a set of evidence-based recommendations that will reduce obesity prevalence across the whole population, published by the OHA as an independent strategy in 2021. A working group of independent academic and policy experts is developing the strategy, with input from expert advisors.

Another obesity strategy?

In England, the government first set a target to tackle obesity in 1991. The target, for 2005, was to reduce the prevalence of adult obesity to 7%, which had been the prevalence in 1980. In the event, the Health Survey for England recorded an adult obesity rate of 23% in 2005.

The rapid rise in obesity in the last two decades of the twentieth century – between 1980 and 2000 adult prevalence tripled – stimulated a government response that was to be sustained for the next two decades .

The impact of government policies on obesity over the last twenty years is not known. The slowing of the growth of the adult obesity rate and the relative stability of the child obesity rate may be due, in part, to government-sponsored interventions. But we do not know how big a part these interventions played nor, crucially, what the trend would have been without them.

What we do know is that policy and interventions to date have not been inadequate. Despite the best intentions, the scope and reach of government policy has failed to reduce the level of obesity in the population and its considerable harms. A great deal more needs to be done if we want to return to a society where having a healthy weight, rather than being overweight, is the norm.

We have to look beyond established approaches to consider the potential for intervention across the system that drives the epidemic. We also have to confront the values that inform policy. No amount of data, evidence and theory will transform policy if they are all held in check by values that close off important population pathways to healthy weight.

The project is being funded by OHA members British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK along with the Health Foundation and Wellcome Trust. Academic researcher time is being funded as part of the UKPRP funded SPECTRUM project led by Professor Linda Bauld at the University of Edinburgh.

For more information contact: info@obesityhealthalliance.org.uk

The terms of reference for the working group is here.

Lived Experience Panel

It is vital that the strategy reflects the views of people living with overweight and obesity. This voice has been missing from previous strategies – yet those who live with the effects of excess weight everyday are uniquely placed to advise policymakers how obesity impacts their lives and the changes they want to see in society and policy.

We have set up a panel of people of different ages and backgrounds, with experience of living with overweight and obesity, to feed into the strategy development process. This group meets online and is chaired by Simon De Negri, Executive Director, Academy of Medical Sciences.

For more information contact: info@obesityhealthalliance.org.uk

The group terms of reference is here.