Funding to tackle obesity


An extra £40 million for health improvement initiatives, including £15 million directly targed at tackling obesity, was announced today.

The investment will be made available over the next three years for a series of healthy weight, healthy eating and physical activity programmes.

Cabinet Secretary of Healthy and Wellbeing Nicola Sturgeon said:

"Obesity is an increasing problem and poses a very serious threat to our nation's health. That is why we have made tackling obesity, particularly in early life, a key priority."

Ms Sturgeon said that the aim will be to tackle the problem of obesity from conception, with free fruit for pregnant mothers and pre-school children to adults already coping with health challenges as a result of obesity.

Initiatives like Counterweight, an adult obesity treatment programme currently run through Keep Well GP practices, will be rolled out nationally.

The Cabinet Secretary said that the scheme is already having positive results in Lanarkshire, Lothian and Tayside Boards and will soon be introduced to practices in Grampian, Fife and Ayrshire.

Through managing weight in primary care, it incorporates a range of approaches from lifestyle interventions to drug prescription and referral to dieticians and psychologists.

In Spring 2008 the Scottish Government will publish its action plan on healthy weight, physical activity and healthy eating.

Ms Sturgeon continued:

"The Scottish Government and COSLA have agreed a new indicator to reduce the rate of increase in the number of children out with the healthy weight range by 2018. In addition a new NHS target will monitor the number of children successfully completing family-focused programmes that address the multiple causes of unhealthy weight.

"As a nation we all have a part to play in addressing our sometimes unhealthy approach to food, weight and physical activity. We want to provide an environment that makes it easier for people to make healthy choices in what they eat and be more active in everyday life.

"Behaviour change does not happen overnight but we believe that making tackling the problem of obesity a much higher priority will positively address the rising level of overweight adults and children in Scotland."

By the end of the year guidance will also be published on the appropriate treatment and referral pathways for patients with unhealthy weight and on the provision of weight loss services.

The Scottish Government has already:

  • Launched a £5 million pound free school meal pilot to improve children's access to healthy food
  • Encouraged the promotion of more physical activity through the Active Schools programme
  • Set out plans to ban the sale of full sugar fizzy drinks, a major contributor to obesity in children, through the Schools (Nutrition and Health Promotion) Act

The Scottish Government is already delivering a wide range of initiatives to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight through the Scottish Diet Action Plan and the national Physical Activity Strategy. These are supported by the on-going implementation of the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) Act which will mean that from August 2008 local authorities will have to promote healthy living in schools, providing education about how to live healthily and the importance of physical activity.

A collection of recent obesity statistics published by the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO) in September 2007 concluded that Scotland has one of the highest levels of obesity among OECD countries, second only to the USA.

People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of a wide range of serious chronic diseases. The most significant conditions associated with being overweight and obese are Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers at various sites (including colon, ovarian and endometrial cancers), osteoarthritis and gout.

The investment is subject to Parliament's approval of the Scottish Budget.