Managing and Preventing Obesity

The Issue

Obesity has the potential to significantly impact the futures of millions of UK children and already affects the lives of many UK adults. Read our short FAQ for further information about obesity.

Obesity as a whole is estimated to have cost the NHS £6.3 billion in 2015. In 2017/18, 9.5% of children of reception age have obesity, rising to 20.1% by the time they reach year six. By the time people reach adulthood, the majority have overweight or obesity; 67% of men and 60% of women. This included 26% of men and 29% of women who are living with obesity. 

Once children have obesity it is very difficult to treat and when they become adults they are more likely to be living with obesity and suffer a higher risk of morbidity, disability, and premature mortality.

The links being drawn between obesity and related conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes, and COVID-19 has once again put this issue centre stage. 

© World Obesity Federation

What the BDA is doing


In England the BDA is pushing for strong action on adult and childhood obesity and supported the introduction of levy for sugar-sweetened drinks across the UK. We have welcomed many aspects of the government's obesity strategy launched in summer 2020, in particular the expansion to include adult and childhood obesity. However, we want to see much more detail on how various aspects of the strategy will be implemented. Read the BDA Obesity Specialist Group's full response here

We have responded to consultations on a range of measures including changes to online advertising of HFSS foods and supermarket promotions of unhealthy foods. 

We will continue to work with Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that the strategy has as much impact as possible in England, including on the sugar reduction programme. However, we have expressed our concern after the last update shows progress had been extremely slow

The BDA is also supporting efforts to ban the sale of energy drinks to under 18s, which was included as part of Chapter 2 of the childhood obesity plan. See the evidence submitted both orally and in writing to the Commons Science and Technology Commitee on this topic in summer 2018.

We continue to work with the Obesity Health Alliance to push for more action in all these areas and more. 

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the 'Fitter Future for All' strategy has been in place since 2012.

Now into its final phase, the CMO for NI has published the outcomes for the period 2019-2022


In Scotland, the government has published their final Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan, which has been welcomed by the BDA Scotland Board. It includes specific commitments to increase access to effective weight management services, improve the food environment and provide funding for support to children and throughout the lifecourse. Scotland Board will continue to engage with consultations on elements of the plan as they are brought forward, including ending the sale of energy drinks to children and young people.

You can read our response to the consultation on the strategy here. A number of local dietetic departments also submitted excellent consultation responses. 

We are proud to work alongside the other members of the Scottish Obesity Alliance to push government to take forward this plan. This includes support for the SOA's latest manifesto on obesity and healthy weight launched as part of World Obesity Day 2021. Most recently, the SOA published a report on the role of food and drink promotions in the retail environment in Scotland. 


In Wales, the Public Health (Wales) Act committed the government to develop a 'National strategy on preventing and reducing obesity'. This was published in October 2019 as 'Healthy Weight, Healthy Wales'.

The BDA will continue to work with colleagues from the NHS Confederation as part of the Obesity Alliance Cymru in order to make sure the positive ideas in HWHW become reality. Read our headline asks document here, and our "scorecard" of the strategy

Weight Stigma

In all our work to support people living with obesity, we recognise the need to avoid stigma. Stigmatising language and behaviour is wrong, and does nothing to help people living with obesity to lose weight. That is why we were proud to have signed a pledge, alongside hundreds of other organisations, to end weight stigma

We have also created internal guidance to help us avoid weight stigma in everything we publish, and challenge it from others. Access it here.

What we need members to do to help

We want you to make the case for robust and comprehensive obesity policy, with dietitians at its heart. You could write to your local political representatives to outline your support for specific policies. 

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the governments have published and are in the process of separate implementing diet and obesity strategies. When they are consulting on aspects of these strategies, we would urge members to respond, and to contact their local politicians in support of them and the role dietitians should play within them. You can read the BDA's responses to the various consultations here.

If local authorities are planning cuts or changes to public health interventions in your local area - in particular in relation to weight management services - we'd urge you to get in touch with us. 

Further information: 


Obesity Health Alliance:

World Obesity Federation:

Case Studies:

Public Health England: