Preventing Overweight and Obesity in Scotland: A Route Map Towards Healthy Weight

Scotland's obesity strategy.


1.1 In common with most of the developed world, Scotland is experiencing the obesity epidemic. In 2008, 26.8% of adults in Scotland were obese and 65.1% were overweight 1; for children the corresponding rates were 15.1% and 31.7% 2. As overweight has become the norm, we have developed a distorted view of normal body shape and just how many people in Scotland are overweight and obese.

1.2 Attainment of the Government's purpose of a flourishing economy requires a healthy population. Overweight and obesity pose real risks to the health of the population in Scotland and its ability to meet its overarching purpose of sustainable economic growth because of the burden of disease that accompanies overweight and obesity.

1.3 The continued increase in obesity levels will ultimately impact on a number of the Government's purpose targets, including healthy life expectancy, productivity, and also solidarity and cohesion. It will also lead to widening health inequalities as more of Scotland's population develop long-term conditions as a result of obesity and overweight.

1.4 In addressing one of the main causes of premature mortality and ill-health in Scotland, the Route Map can make a significant contribution to delivering the Government's purpose to deliver sustainable economic growth and, in particular, is a key driver underpinning efforts to increase healthy life expectancy ( HLE).

1.5 The need to increase HLE in Scotland is a key element of the Population target within the Government Economic Strategy and recognises the importance of increasing productivity and labour market participation to sustainable economic growth.

1.6 In addition to its direct impact on levels of HLE in Scotland, tackling overweight and obesity will contribute to improved health and wellbeing which is crucial to people's ability to engage in education and training and to increase their participation in the labour market.

1.7 Obesity cannot be viewed simply as a health issue, nor will it be solved by reliance on individual behaviour change. Thus, although the NHS has a central and continuing role to play in dealing with the problems associated with obesity and its health consequences, such a threat to Scotland's future requires sustained wide ranging and unprecedented levels of co-ordinated action across the whole of Government. As a Government we are committed to taking action now, across the whole of society, to prevent this threat becoming a reality.

1.8 The cultural and societal norms that we have established over the past generation have in many ways transformed our lives for the better, however they have also brought serious unintended consequences for some people's capacity to maintain a healthy weight which threatens to overwhelm us in the next generation. What is required in the long term is transformational change in society to address the threat to individual and collective wellbeing posed by weight gain and obesity. The type of change we need to make are analogous to those required to mitigate and adapt to climate change in terms of scale and complexity. In some cases solutions to both these complex problems will be complimentary. What is clear is that we must start to act now.

1.9 Our collective efforts to address the rising trend need to influence many areas of people's lives. A successful approach will require cross-portfolio and cross-sector collaboration and investment to make deep, sustainable changes to our living environment in order to shift it from one that promotes weight gain to one that supports healthy choices and healthy weight for all.

1.10 A significant proportion of the changes we need to see will take place at a community level across Scotland. The work of Community Planning Partnerships will be essential in delivering a long-term strategy for obesity prevention. Many of the mechanisms for creating environments that promote healthy weight lie within their responsibilities. This Route Map is intended to guide the allocation of resources to the prevention of obesity at a local as well as a national level.

1.11 The Scottish Government and COSLA are equal partners in the development and delivery of this Route Map. The policy direction set out in this document are aimed at central and local government decision-makers working with their partners in agencies, the third sector, NHSScotland and business to develop and subsequently deliver the long-term solutions to this problem.

Back to top