Policy

Reducing obesity and improving diet

Issue

In England, most people are overweight or obese. This includes 61.9% of adults and 28% of children aged between 2 and 15. People who are overweight have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Excess weight can also make it more difficult for people to find and keep work, and it can affect self-esteem and mental health.

Health problems associated with being overweight or obese cost the NHS more than £5 billion every year.

By 2020, we want to see:

  • a downward trend in the level of excess weight in adults
  • a sustained downward trend in the level of excess weight in children

Actions

Helping people to make healthier choices

It is important that we encourage and help people to:

  • eat and drink more healthily
  • be more active

We are:

Encouraging responsible business

Through our Public Health Responsibility Deal, businesses and organisations can make it easier for everyone - from staff to customers - to make healthier choices.

The Responsibility Deal has 4 networks (alcohol, food, health at work and physical activity) which all have collective pledges that businesses are encouraged to sign up to. Our actions to help people eat more healthily include:

  • reducing ingredients (for example salt and fat) that can be harmful if people eat too much of them
  • encouraging people to eat more fruit and vegetable to help reach their 5 A DAY
  • putting calorie information on menus
  • helping people to eat fewer calories (for example by changing the portion size or the recipe of a product)

Meeting local needs

Local councils are responsible for working with other organisations to improve the health of people living in their area. This includes making sure that the right services are in place.

We will be giving local councils a budget specifically for public health, which will allow them to provide services that meet the health needs of their local community. This could include making their own plans for helping local people who are overweight or obese, for example by providing weight loss services.

Local councils will also have health and wellbeing boards that bring together local organisations to create an environment in which people can make healthier choices.

Background

In 2007, the Foresight report ‘Tackling Obesities: Future Choices’ revealed worrying levels of obesity in the UK. Its findings informed the government’s ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England’, which was published in 2011.

The call to action:

  • sets out plans for involving the whole of society in reducing obesity
  • states that obesity is everybody’s business and that it is the responsibility of individuals to change their behaviour to lose weight
  • says that a range of partners, including government and business, have a responsibility to help people lose weight
  • says that dealing with obesity in children and adults is important
  • has a goal to reduce the number of calories the nation eats every day by 5 billion – and says that business has a big part to play in achieving this

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