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Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives strategy

Pandemic context

In July 2020, Public Health England (PHE) published a report which described that risk for COVID-19 increased progressively as body mass index (BMI) rose above the healthy weight range. Individuals who were overweight or living with obesity were at a higher risk of being severely ill and dying from the virus.

Tackling obesity – the strategy

On 27 July 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care published a new strategy on tackling obesity, saying that ‘COVID-19 has given us a wake-up call’. The strategy described how living with obesity reduced life expectancy and increased the risk of some diseases. It also described how tackling obesity would reduce pressure on NHS services. 

Government committed to introducing a new public campaign on obesity and expanding weight management services. It also announced plans to consult on the ‘traffic light’ food label system in place that aimed to help people make more informed choices about their nutrition. A central plank of the strategy was a ‘Better Health’ information campaign, based around an NHS 12-week weight loss plan app.

The strategy also promised regulation to restrict the advertisement of unhealthy foods. This included: restrictions on some products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) being marketed on TV before 9pm and a ban on paid-for advertising online; restrictions on the promotion of some HFSS products in shops; and calorie labelling measures.


In response, Shadow Health and Social Care Minister Alex Norris stated that ‘an effective obesity strategy needs action, not consultation’. He called for more immediate steps to be taken to tackle this challenge. 

Further developments

The ban on advertising less healthy food or drink on television and online between 5pm and 9pm was included in the Health and Care Bill 2022 and was due to come into effect on 1 January 2023. 

On 14 May 2022, the Department of Health and Care announced that these advertising restrictions would be delayed by a year and come into force in January 2024.


Department of Health and Social Care.
Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives.
gov.uk; 2020. 

National Audit Office.
Childhood obesity.
National Audit Office; 2020. 

Evennet H.
Tackling childhood obesity: what is the strategy?
House of Lords Library; 2020. 

Department of Health and Social Care.
Government delays restrictions on multibuy deals and advertising on TV and online [webpage].
gov.uk; 2022.