Adult and Childhood Obesity

Images of Hight fat, sugar and salt foods, such as Pizza, Cake and Soda

The BDA is joining other organisations in calling on the UK government to take firm action to tackle adult and childhood obesity.  

The Issue

Obesity is a public health crisis that threatens to damage the futures of millions of UK children and already affects the lives of many UK adults. Obesity as a whole is estimated to have cost the NHS £6.3 billion in 2015. In 2016/17, 20% of children aged 10-11 were obese with 9.6% of children already obese in reception. By the time people reach adulthood, 25.6% of the population is obese, with a further 36.1% overweight. Once children become obese it is very difficult to treat and when they become adults they are more likely to be obese and suffer a higher risk of morbidity, disability, and premature mortality.

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 expressed our disappointment at the watered down Childhood Obesity Plan for Action released in August 2016 by the UK Government.

However, we have welcomed the promise to consult on many more key policies in Chapter 2 of the Childhood Obesity Plan for Action, released in June 2018. We were pleased to see the inclusion of a possible ban on energy drink sales to under-16s, a topic recently covered at a session of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, where we gave evidence. We also welcome proposals to restrict what foods can be sold around checkouts, something we've long called for as part of the "Chuck the Junk" campaign alongside the Children's Food Campaign. 

We will engage with the Department of Health, ministers and other politicians in Westminster and the rest of the UK to make the case for implementing as many of these policies as possible.

We continue to work with Public Health England (PHE) and others to ensure that the plan has as much impact as possible in England. We have so far attended every one of PHE's reformulation and data meetings in support of their 20% targeted reduction in added sugar in a range of product categories and are also engaging with the next phase of work, which focuses on calorie reduction. The first report on this work, which showed disappointing progress, was published by PHE on 22 May 2018. 

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. 

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. 

You can read our response to the consultation on the strategy here. A number of local dietetic departments also submitted excellent consultation responses. The issue was also debated in the Scottish Parliament in February 2018.

In Wales, the Public Health (Wales) Act committed the government to develop a 'National strategy on preventing and reducing obesity'. The BDA have worked with colleagues from the NHS Confederation as part of the Obesity Alliance Cymru to put forward proposals on what should be included in such a strategy. Read our headline asks document here

In Northern Ireland, the 'Fitter Future for All' strategy has been in place since 2012. The NI Department of Health have recently published its progress report, for the period 2016-17. 88% of the short term outcomes are currently on track for delivery. 

We believe that dietitians have a central role to play in preventing and treating obesity and that this needs to be better recognised by the government and local commissioners. Unfortunately, in some areas cuts to public health funding are seeing dietitian-led service reduced. Where this is the case the BDA will seek to support members to oppose the changes, if they want our support. 

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 Scotland and Wales, the devolved governments have committed to publishing and implementing diet and obesity strategies. When they are consulting on these and after they publish them, we would urge members 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. 

Further information 


UK Government:

  • The Department of Health has now launched a Reducing Childhood Obesity website, bringing together all their work on this policy.
  • The Department of Education has confirmed that £415 million of the income from the Sugar Levy will be made available in 2018-19 for schools to encourage more healthy, active lifestyles in England. They also confirmed this funding will be made available even if the levy does not bring in the expected revenue. 

Obesity Health Alliance:

Public Health England:


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