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  • Healthy Lives, Healthy People:

    A call to action on obesity in England


    Policy Estates HR/Workforce Commissioning Management IM & T Planning Finance Clinical Social Care/Partnership Working

    Document purpose Policy

    Gateway reference 16166

    Title Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England

    Author Department of Health

    Publication date 13 October 2011

    Target audience PCT CEs, NHS Trust CEs, SHA CEs, Care Trust CEs, Foundation Trust CEs, Medical Directors, Directors of PH, Directors of Nursing, Local Authority CEs, Directors of Adult SSs, PCT Chairs, NHS Trust Board Chairs, Allied Health Professionals, GPs, Communications Leads, Directors of Childrens SSs

    Circulation list Voluntary organisations/NDPBs, other

    Description This document sets out how the new approach to public health will enable effective action on obesity and encourages a wide range of partners to play their part.

    Cross-reference Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England

    Superseded documents


    Action required n/a

    Timing n/a

    Contact details Obesity Policy Team 7th Floor, South Wing Wellington House 133155 Waterloo Road London SE1 8UG

    For recipients use

  • Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England

  • CoNTENTs

    Foreword 3

    Executive summary 5

    1. The scale of the challenge 10

    2. An assessment of the evidence base 18

    3. A new approach and a new ambition 22

    4. Empowering people and communities to take action a new opportunity

    for local leadership 27

    5. Building local capability to support individuals and communities local and national

    working together 34

    6. National leadership Governments role 40

    7. Realising the potential for change 49

    References and endnotes 50

  • FoREWoRD

    England, along with the rest of the UK, has an

    unenviable position as one of the world leaders

    in excess weight. We have one of the highest

    rates of obesity in Europe and one of the highest

    in the developed world.

    Indeed, most people in England today are

    overweight or obese. Excess weight is a leading

    cause of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and

    cancer, adding costs to the NHs money that

    could be spent on other priorities. Many lives

    are blighted each day by back pain, breathing

    problems or infertility caused by overweight

    and obesity, contributing to low self-esteem

    and reduced quality of life. At a time when

    our country needs to rebuild our economy,

    overweight and obesity impair the productivity

    of individuals and increase absenteeism.

    Past efforts have not succeeded in turning the

    tide. We need a new way of looking at the issue

    and new approaches to tackling it together.

    We have worked closely with a range of partners

    to develop a new approach for England.

    These include academic and clinical experts,

    charities working to combat the causes and

    consequences of excess weight, dedicated

    practitioners in the NHs and wider public sector

    involved in front-line work, employers, and key

    players in the food industry and physical activity

    sector. We have looked at the science and at

    innovative initiatives to encourage healthier

    lifestyles and to tackle obesity up and down

    the country, and considered how we can build

    on the foundations proposed in Healthy Lives,

    Healthy People, our public health White Paper,

    to make a step-change towards a healthier

    weight for everyone.

    We are today announcing new national

    ambitions which offer a clear rallying cry for our

    combined efforts:

    a sustained downward trend in the level of

    excess weight in children by 2020

    a downward trend in the level of excess

    weight averaged across all adults by 2020.

    Past experience tells us that these are truly

    stretching ambitions. But those we have spoken

    to tell us that there is much we can achieve if

    we all pull together both as individuals, and as

    partners with a role in supporting and helping

    individuals so that the healthier choices become

    the easier choices. We will review progress every

    year with a wide range of experts and delivery

    partners to ensure that, together, we are doing

    everything we can to support individuals to

    improve their health.

    overweight and obesity are a direct consequence

    of eating and drinking more calories and

    using up too few. We need to be honest with

    ourselves and recognise that we need to make

    some changes to control our weight. Increasing

    physical activity is important but, for most of

    us who are overweight and obese, eating and

    drinking less is key to weight loss.


  • 4

    Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England

    Each of us is ultimately responsible for our

    health. Its right that we should be free to make

    choices about diet and physical activity for

    ourselves and for our families. But while most of

    us value our health, busy lifestyles and the 21st

    century environment often make it hard to make

    the healthy choice. The job for Government

    and its partners at national and local level is

    to transform the environment so that it is less

    inhibiting of healthy lifestyles, to provide the

    information and practical support we need to

    make healthier choices to prevent weight gain,

    and to secure the services we need to help us to

    tackle excess weight.

    Each community has different characteristics

    and what works best for one will not necessarily

    work well for another. We will therefore put

    local government in the lead in developing

    and implementing strategies which are locally

    led and locally focused and integrate effort with

    the NHs, Public Health England and other

    key partners.

    The Government is committed to playing its

    full part. We will work closely across a range of

    government departments and will ensure that

    local effort is supported by high quality data and

    evidence of what works. We will continue to

    invest in and develop Change4Life as a trusted

    source of support and encouragement to

    individuals on their behaviour change journey.

    And we will redouble our efforts to harness the

    contribution of national partners including

    business. We are launching a calorie reduction

    challenge aimed at reducing calorie intake,

    which sees business taking a leading role in

    view of the food and drink industrys reach and

    influence on our diet, with support from the

    third sector. The goal is to reduce our national

    energy intake by 5 billion calories a day in order

    to bring us back into collective energy balance

    and help those who need to lose weight to do so.

    The Government is committed to giving a lead in

    our efforts to prevent and reduce excess weight.

    We look to the full range of partners at national

    and local level to encourage and support

    individuals to eat a healthy diet and become

    more physically active. And we ask the public

    to work with us by taking responsibility for their

    own lifestyle choices. This document sets out the

    challenge, presents a vision of how we can work

    together, and calls us all to action. Together we

    can make a difference.

    Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE MP

    secretary of state for Health


    The scale of the issue

    overweight and obesity represent probably the

    most widespread threat to health and wellbeing

    in this country. A total of 23% of adults are

    obese (with a body mass index BMI of over

    30); 61.3% are either overweight or obese

    (with a BMI of over 25). For children, 23.1%

    of 45-year-olds are overweight or obese, and

    33.3% of 1011-year-olds. The trend has been

    upward over the past decades, although it

    appears to have now levelled off in children and

    there are signs of levelling off among younger

    adults. However, the absolute level of obesity

    is very high England, along with the rest of

    the UK, ranks as one of the most obese nations

    in Europe and there are few signs yet of a

    sustained decline. We also continue to see clear

    health inequalities with regard to obesity.

    Why it matters to individuals, society and the economy

    It is the consequences of overweight and obesity

    that make these statistics so serious. Excess

    weight is a major risk factor for diseases such

    as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

    Alongside the serious ill-health it provokes, it

    can reduce peoples prospects in life, affecting

    individuals ability to get and hold down work,

    their self-esteem and their underlying mental

    health. Excess weight costs the NHs more than

    5bn each year. More broadly, it has a serious

    impact on economic development.

    The basis of the new approach

    The overall approach to tackling overweight and

    obesity set out in the Call to action has been

    informed by:

    the latest evidence of the underlying issues

    and causes, starting with the Government

    office for sciences Foresight report of 2007


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