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 have 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.
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 consultations on many more key policies in Chapter 2 of the Childhood Obesity Plan for Action, released in June 2018.
Most recently we wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to urge him to take a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach to supporting people living with obesity. It is expected that the government will announce a new, comprehensive obesity strategy in Summer 2020. Most importantly, we want to see wider and more consistent support for prevention and weight management programmes for all ages, led by dietitians. We want to see a strategy that acts across the lifecourse, and tackles wider issues such as poverty and the food environment.
We will continue to work with Public Health England (PHE) and others to ensure that the plan 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.
We continue to support the the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which came into effect from 5th April 2018. This will not on its own solve the obesity crisis but it is a positive sign of intent and a step in the right direction. We support the expansion of the SDIL to milky drinks with high levels of added sugar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
If local authorities are planning cuts or changes to public health interventions in your local area - in particular in relation to child weight management - we'd urge you to get in touch with us.
- Read our updated policy statement on the Childhood Obesity Plan for Action
- Read the LGA's 2019 paper on a Whole Systems Approach to Obesity
- Read our letter to the Prime Minister on Obesity.
- Read our recent joint letter, organised by the OHA, on the 9pm watershed published in the Times
- The Department of Health has a Reducing Childhood Obesity website, bringing together all their work on this policy.
Obesity Health Alliance:
World Obesity Federation:
Public Health England:
- Read the latest analysis of fast food outlets by local authority
- Read PHE's joint strategy with the LGA, ADPH and Leeds Beckett on "Making obesity everybody's business".
- Take a look at PHE's All Our Health guidance which outlines some of the issues with adult obesity
- Read the PHE's data and analysis tools on obesity, including regional breakdowns.
- Read A Healthier Future - Scotland's Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan
- Check out the work of Obesity Action Scotland, including their call for action on the Scottish Diet