Last year, in response to growing numbers across the country living with excess weight and obesity, the Government published our new strategy, “Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives”. Worryingly, during the covid-19 pandemic, evidence has shown that people with obesity are more likely to be admitted to hospital, to an intensive care unit and, sadly, to die compared to those of a healthy body weight. This is as well as being at a heightened risk of other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
So today I am delighted to announce that the Government are committing an additional £100 million over 2021-22 to support people living with obesity, to lose weight and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
More than £70 million will be invested in weight management services available through the NHS and local authorities. The funding announced today will mean up to 700,000 adults have access to support that can help them to lose weight, from access to digital apps, weight management groups or individual coaches, to specialist clinical support. This funding will also support GPs and other health professionals to help make weight management an integral part of routine care. It will encourage clinicians to have conversations about weight with their patients and enable them to refer patients to new services.
£30 million will be used to fund a variety of initiatives that will help individuals maintain a healthy weight. This includes providing access to the free NHS 12-week weight loss plan app and continuing the successful Better Health marketing campaign to motivate people to make healthier choices. Some of the funding will go towards improving services and tools to support healthy growth in early years and childhood. This will assist up to 6,000 children, and their families, to grow, develop and maintain a healthier weight whilst providing many more with advice on lifestyle changes to promote a healthy weight.
Evidence suggests that people who have access to structured weight management services are more successful in losing weight than people who try to manage alone. Losing weight reduces the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers. This funding will support a breadth of new services so that people can find an approach that works for them.
I am also very pleased to announce that Sir Keith Mills, who has pioneered reward programmes through Airmiles and Nectar points, has been appointed to advise on developing a new approach, “Fit Miles”, to support people to eat well and move more, using incentives and rewards.
Drawing on a wealth of experience and best practice from around the world, Sir Keith will support the Government to develop and test innovative approaches with public and private partners that use incentives and rewards to help people make healthier choices.
This additional funding will complement other policies announced in last year’s obesity strategy that will change the wider environment and empower people to make the healthier choices. From restricting advertisements for food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar, banning unhealthy promotions and consulting on alcohol calorie labelling, to requiring large businesses to provide calorie information—these actions are helping us all make healthier choices.
The Department of Health and Social Care is working closely with NHS England and Improvement and Public Health England to ensure this programme of funding helps those who need it most. This funding will support people across the country achieve a healthier lifestyle. The Department of Health and Social Care will provide further detail on this programme of work in the coming weeks and months.