Tackling 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 2014/15, 19.1% of children aged 10-11 were obese and a further 14.2% were overweight, and 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

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. Key policies which could drive down obesity rates amongst children and young people were not included.

Despite this, in England 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 (which will have a UK wide impact). We will also be engaging with PHE's next phase of work, which focuses on calorie reduction. 

We are also engaging with the Department of Health, ministers and other politicians in Westminster and the rest of the UK to make the case for strengthening the plan for action in the future and doing more to tackle adult and childhood obesity. We continue to support the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. 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. 

Key dates for the ongoing childhood obesity work include: 

  • March 2018 - first detailed report on progress against voluntary sugar reduction targets
  • April 2018 - Sugar Levy comes into effect
  • 2018 - work on calorie reduction targets begins

In Scotland, the government published their consultation on an obesity and diet strategy in Autumn 2017, and the BDA has pushed for this to be as comprehensive as possible. This has included contributing to the Scottish Health and Sports Committee's inquiry into the matter. The BDA Scotland Board have produced a document setting out their initial thoughts on the consultation and what needs to be included. The Board is now working on a comprehensive response to the consultation document. 

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

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 concerns about the government's limited approach, or to support those elements, such as the sugar tax, that we believe will be positive. For example, our friends at the Obesity Health Alliance have created a short letter you can send to your MP calling for changes to advertising and promotion of HFSS foods. 

In Scotland and Wales, the devolved governments have committed to publishing diet and obesity strategies. When they do so, 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 



Obesity Health Alliance:

Public Health England:


This theme applies in

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