Department of Health and Social Care
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Government announces first steps in strategy to help people maintain healthy weight and live healthier lives

Government announces first steps in strategy to help people maintain healthy weight and live healthier lives

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by The Government News Network on 23 January 2008


A new £372 million cross-government strategy to help everyone lead healthier lives was published today by the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls.

The Government's groundbreaking strategy supports the creation of a healthy society - from early years, to schools and food, from sport and physical activity to planning, transport and the health service.

It will bring together employers, individuals and communities to promote children's health and healthy food; build physical activity into our lives; support health at work; and provide incentives more widely to promote health. It will also provide effective treatment and support when people become overweight or obese.

Having been at least 30 years in the making, the obesity trend will not be halted overnight. This strategy is a first step and will be followed by an annual report that assesses progress, looks at the latest evidence and trends and make recommendations for further action. A panel of experts will assist the Government, with input from a new public health obesity observatory that will develop our understanding of what changes behaviour.

Alan Johnson said:

"Tackling obesity is the most significant public and personal health challenge facing our society. The core of the problem is simple - we eat too much and we do too little exercise. The solution is more complex. From the nature of the food that we eat, to the built environment, through to the way our children lead their lives - it is harder to avoid obesity in the modern environment.

"It is not the Government's role to hector or lecture people, but we do have a duty to support them in leading healthier lifestyles. This will only succeed if the problem is recognised, owned and addressed in every part of society."

The five key elements of the strategy are:

First, the healthy growth and development of children.
* Early identification of at risk families and plans to make breastfeeding the default option for mothers.
* Investment in healthy schools, increasing participation in physical activity, and making cooking a compulsory part of the national curriculum.
* A £75 million marketing campaign to support and empower parents to make changes to their children's diet and increase levels of physical activity.

Second, promoting healthier food choices.
* Setting out a Healthy Food Code of Good Practice to be finalised in partnership with the food and drink industry, including proposals to develop a single, simple and effective approach to food labelling, and to challenge the industry (including restaurants and food outlets) to support individuals and families reduce their consumption of saturated fat, salt and sugar.
* OFCOM to bring forward its review of the restrictions already introduced on the advertising of unhealthy foods to children.
* Promote Local Authority planning powers to limit the spread of fast food outlets in particular areas e.g. such as close to schools or parks.

Third, building physical activity into our lives.
* Investment of £30 million in "Healthy Towns" - working with selected towns and cities to bring together the successful EPODE (Ensemble Prevenons Lobesite Des Enfants) model used in Europe, using infrastructure and whole town approaches to promoting physical activity.
* Set up a working group with the entertainment technology industry to ensure that they continue to develop tools to allow parents to manage the time that their children spend watching TV or playing sedentary games, online and much more widely.
* Review our overall approach to physical activity, including the role of Sport England, with the aim of producing a fresh set of programmes to ensure that there is a clear legacy of increased physical activity before and after the 2012 Games.

Fourth, Creating incentives for better health.
* Stronger incentives for individuals, employers and the NHS to prioritise the long-term work of improving health.
* Working with employers and employer organisations to explore how companies can best promote good health among their staff and make healthy workplaces part of their core business model.
* We will pilot and evaluate a range of different approaches to using personal financial incentives to encourage healthy living.

Fifth, Personalised advice and support.
* Developing the NHS Choices website so that it provides advice for diet and activity levels, with clear and consistent information on how to maintain a healthy weight.
* Increased funding over the next three years to support the commissioning of more weight management services, where people can access personalised services to support them in achieving real and sustained weight loss.

In England alone, nearly a quarter of men and women are now obese. The trends for children are even more cause for concern, with 18 per cent of 2 to 15 year olds currently obese and a further 14 per cent overweight.

The Foresight report on obesity, published last year, indicated that on current trends nearly 60 per cent of the UK population will be obese by 2050 - that is almost two out of three in the population defined as severely overweight. If this trend continues, millions of adults and children will inevitably face deteriorating health and a lower quality of life and we face spiralling health and social care costs.

Ed Balls said:

"Tackling obesity in the adults of tomorrow requires winning the hearts and minds of young people today.

"Every parent wants their child to be fit and healthy - what we want to do is help them make informed decisions about their own children's lives.

"And giving young people the lifelong education they need - more sport and exercise in and out of school; ending the 'no ball games' culture with more play and sports facilities; equipping children with cooking skills and understanding of diet; and stamping out unhealthy and junk food in schools."

The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson said:

"This cross-government strategy on obesity has come at a vitally important time. It has never been more challenging to maintain a healthy weight as it is today. A unified solution must be found and this is an important first stage in engaging the whole of society in this issue. As mentioned in my annual report of 2002, physical activity, healthy eating, balanced marketing and promotion of food to children and clear and consistent food labelling are all key components in beating the obesity time bomb."

Notes to editors

1. The strategy, Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives: A Cross Government Strategy for England can be found at

2. The Foresight report, Tackling Obesities: Future Choices, was published on 17 October 2007. It can be found at

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