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UK Anti-Obesity Initiative Triggers Skepticism

New program in the United Kingdom is sponsored by private companies linked to rise in obesity

FRIDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A new anti-obesity initiative, Change4Life, was recently implemented in the United Kingdom. An editorial published in the Jan. 10 issue of The Lancet discusses the implications of this new campaign.

Change4Life is a three-year program initiated by the government of the United Kingdom, with the goal of reducing the proportion of overweight children by the year 2020 to that of the year 2000. With a target audience of families with young children (under 12 years of age), the initiative uses television advertisements, billboards and posters to relay its message through social marketing principles.

However, the authors of the editorial note that in addition to public funding of £75 million, approximately £200 million has been contributed by private sponsors, including PepsiCo and Kelloggs. The authors observe that this is ironic, given the fact that these companies produce the very products that have contributed to the rise in childhood obesity. The government argues that the use of these, and other, brand names provide powerful impact on the target audience.

"Social marketing principles -- the use of commercial marketing techniques to promote socially desirable outcomes -- are a potentially useful tool," the authors of the editorial write. However, they caution that before they are implemented "there needs to be a thorough understanding of what works on the basis of reliable data."


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