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Healthy Eating, Active Living: An action plan to improve diet, increase physical activity and tackle obesity (2008-2011)

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1 Introduction

This paper outlines how the Scottish Government will use the resources identified in the recent Scottish Budget to improve the nation's diet, encourage greater physical activity and begin to establish a base for tackling obesity through both targeted interventions and by supporting us all in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. We have identified key life stages and settings in which we will act.

Scotland has made significant progress in recent years in reducing the number of deaths from chronic disease which has resulted in an increase in life expectancy. 1 However, there is concern that the impact of rising levels of overweight and obese people will reverse that progress.

In addition, it has been estimated that the cost to the NHS in Scotland of obesity in 2003 was £171m. 2 More recently the Foresight Report by the UK Government Office for Science, Tackling Obesities (2007) 3 stated that if current trends are to continue across the UK at the present rate then by 2050 it is estimated the cost to the UK's health service will be almost £50 billion at today's prices.

Scotland has previously established strong foundations and has made progress through implementation of the existing diet 4 and physical activity 5 strategies. In this joint action plan we re-affirm our commitment to these strategies and we identify the immediate short-term actions that we believe will best contribute to improving our diet, increasing our levels of physical activity, and helping to tackle obesity. To support our actions we have identified an additional £40m for the period 2008-2011 on top of the existing £16m previously allocated to support action on diet, physical activity and obesity.

Obesity is a complex problem. This was recently made clear in the Foresight Report which provided evidence that the causes and determinants of obesity are broad ranging and involve complex interactions of cultural, social, environmental and lifestyle factors. As a Government we are committed to reversing the increase in the incidence of obesity. We accept in principle the conclusions of the Foresight Report and we will use the Report as a basis for developing Scotland's longer-term strategy for tackling obesity. In the coming months we will engage with our partners from all sectors of Scottish life to help develop a longer-term strategy for tackling obesity.

Food policy is just one example of the way in which diverse stakeholders, sectors and disciplines can play a part in shaping our contemporary environment either to promote or to tackle unhealthy weight. The development of a National Food and Drink Policy provides us with an opportunity to reshape and influence the environment in which food is produced, processed and eventually finds its way on to our plates and an early opportunity to demonstrate how as a Government we can work across traditional boundaries to effect change.

Choosing the Right Ingredients carried forward themes highlighted in the Review of the Scottish Diet Action Plan 6 about closer integration between the policy goals of improving Scotland's diet-related ill-health and those of social justice, sustainable development and agriculture. It also highlighted a need to refresh engagement with the food industry. The discussion on Choosing the Right Ingredients has concluded and first reflections on the outcomes have been shared, but clearly if we are to maximise our opportunity to change what we consume then the National Food and Drink Policy has to reflect our ambitions for improving the nation's health through improving its diet.