Between 1992 and 2020, the British Government has published 14 obesity strategies for England, and yet over the same time period obesity prevalence and health inequalities have not been reduced. A recently published study aimed to determine whether the strategies and policies have been fit for purpose (Theis & White, 2021).

Analysis revealed a number of important findings:
  • Obesity policies in England have largely been advanced in a way that does not readily lead to implementation.
  • Governments have rarely commissioned evaluations of previous strategies or learnt from policy failures.
  • Noninterventionist policy approaches have been favoured by successive governments.
  • Policies have largely made high demands on individual agency, relying on individuals to make behaviour changes, rather than tackling the structural and environmental factors which cause obesity.

The authors propose that these findings may help to explain why obesity prevalence and health inequities have not been successfully reduced in the period 1992-2020.

The findings of this study have a number of important practical implications for successful and effective obesity policy:
  • Governments should learn from previous policy failures. 
  • They should concentrate on policies that make minimal demands on individuals.
  • A key policy priority should be for a population‐wide reach to maximise equity.
  • Greater efforts are needed to ensure policies can be feasibly implemented and evaluated.

Read the paper in full here.

Details: Theis, D., & White, M. (2021). Is Obesity Policy in England Fit for Purpose? Analysis of Government Strategies and Policies, 1992-2020. The Milbank quarterly, 10.1111/1468-0009.12498. 

OEN UK is committed to making obesity prevention and treatment a national priority and removing health inequalities.