Tackling Childhood Obesity: The UK Experience and the Urgent Need for Improved Governance – BMC Medicine


factor Tackling Childhood Obesity: The UK Experience and the Urgent Need for Improved Governance - BMC Medicine


Tackling Childhood Obesity: The UK Experience and the Urgent Need for Improved Governance – BMC Medicine


Childhood obesity has become a significant public health concern globally, with rising rates observed in many countries. In the United Kingdom (UK), this issue has been particularly alarming, prompting the government and health authorities to take urgent action. The UK has had a long history of battling childhood obesity, implementing various strategies and initiatives to address this growing problem. However, despite these efforts, the prevalence of childhood obesity remains high. This article explores the UK’s experience in tackling childhood obesity, examines the existing governance framework, and highlights the urgent need for improved governance to effectively combat this pressing issue.

Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the UK

Childhood obesity rates in the UK have reached alarming levels in recent years. According to the latest data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), approximately 20% of children in reception year (ages 4-5) and over 35% of children in year 6 (ages 10-11) are classified as overweight or obese. These statistics highlight the scale of the problem and the urgent need for effective interventions.

Government Initiatives and Strategies

The UK government has recognized the severity of childhood obesity and has taken several steps to address it. One of the key initiatives is the Childhood Obesity Plan, launched in 2016, which sets out a comprehensive approach to tackle the issue. The plan focuses on multiple areas, including promoting healthier food choices, encouraging physical activity, and ensuring better information and education.

The plan emphasizes the importance of empowering families and communities to make healthier choices. It includes measures such as introducing a sugar tax on soft drinks, improving school meals, and restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children. These initiatives aim to create an environment that supports healthier behaviors and reduces the prevalence of childhood obesity.

Challenges Faced in Tackling Childhood Obesity

Despite the efforts made by the UK government and health authorities, challenges persist in effectively tackling childhood obesity. One of the key challenges is the complex nature of the issue, which involves various factors such as socio-economic status, cultural influences, and built environment. Addressing these factors requires a multi-faceted approach and collaboration between different sectors.

Another major challenge is the lack of consistent and coordinated governance. Currently, the responsibility for addressing childhood obesity in the UK is shared between different government departments, local authorities, and non-governmental organizations. This fragmented governance structure often leads to a lack of clear accountability, coordination, and resource allocation, hindering the effectiveness of interventions.

The Urgent Need for Improved Governance

To effectively tackle childhood obesity in the UK, there is an urgent need for improved governance. This involves establishing a centralized body or framework that can oversee and coordinate efforts across different sectors. Such a framework can ensure clear accountability, streamline decision-making processes, and allocate resources more effectively.

Improved governance should also prioritize evidence-based interventions and rigorous evaluation of their impact. This will enable policymakers to make informed decisions and identify the most effective approaches for reducing childhood obesity.

Furthermore, better collaboration and partnerships between government, industry, healthcare professionals, and non-governmental organizations are crucial in addressing the complex factors contributing to childhood obesity. By working together, these stakeholders can leverage their respective expertise and resources to develop and implement comprehensive strategies.


Childhood obesity continues to be a pressing public health concern in the UK, necessitating urgent action. The government and health authorities have made significant efforts to tackle the issue but face challenges related to the complex nature of obesity and fragmented governance. Improved governance, through the establishment of a centralized framework, can provide the necessary coordination and accountability needed to combat childhood obesity effectively. By prioritizing evidence-based interventions and fostering collaboration across sectors, the UK can make significant strides towards reducing childhood obesity rates and improving the health and well-being of its children.


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