UK Government launches scheme to start a “healthy living revolution”

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 12th November 2008

The UK Government has launched Change4Life, a food industry supported initiative to tackle the alrming rates of obesity in Britain.

If nothing is done, by 2050 90 per cent of today’s children will be overweight and at risk from serious diseases, according Health Secretary Alan Johnson as he launched the Change4Life coalition.

Change4Life is a lifestyle revolution involving thousands of local organisations and charities which, it is hoped, will help mums, dads and families eat well, move more and live longer. Under the banner, Change4Life, the Government is aiming to galvanise support from everyone in the country from grass roots organisations to leading supermarkets and charities.

The aim is to reduce the number of people who are obese or overweight and prevent the problem escalating to a point where the experts say it is likely to cost the NHS an estimated £50 billion by 2050.

“Obesity is the biggest public health challenge the country faces. If we don’t take action now we will condemn our children to reduced life expectancy,” Mr Johnson said. “That’s why we are aiming to create a lifestyle revolution that will help families to eat well, move more and live longer. We can’t start a revolution on our own – we need everyone from grassroots community clubs to multinational companies to join us.”

“Ten million people visit their corner shops every day and 36 million shop at Asda and Tesco each week – the fact that grocers and supermarkets are on board means we can really influence what goes into our shopping trolleys.”

More than 12,400 grass roots organisations, charities including Cancer Research, Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation, Tesco, Asda, PepsiCo, Kelloggs, ITV, the Association of Convenience Stores and the Fitness Industry Association have signed up.

“It’s unprecedented for supermarkets to join the Government and pledge to cut prices on healthy food. But this isn’t an exclusive club. Anyone who promises to help families to be healthier can join. I am today challenging every CEO of every company who can influence what we eat and how we exercise to come forward and tell us how they are going to help beat this national epidemic. Obesity affects us all so everyone must get involved.”

Before Change4Life was created, the Department of Health undertook detailed research to test out what messages would work with families. That research, published overnight, shows that:

* parents don’t recognise that their children are overweight – just 11.5 per cent of parents with overweight or obese children recognise it;

* parents underestimate how much unhealthy food and convenience food they buy as well as overestimating the amount of activity their children do;

* only 38 per cent of adults know that obesity can lead to heart disease and only 6 per cent know about the link of cancer with being overweight;

* many families use snacks as rewards, as fillers during times of boredom and to appease conflict;

* parents of older children are more worried about not feeding them enough and the risk of eating disorders such as anorexia; and

* lack of knowledge, confidence and skills is the main barrier which stops parents cooking from scratch.

Through the Advertising Association the Government is talking to a number of companies including BSkyB, Kraft and Unilever and is talking directly with a further 50 organisations. There are no limits to the number who can participate.

organic food basket

Commitments made so far include:

* Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, will spread the word on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle amongst its customers and workforce. Tesco will run themed Change4Life promotional activity in store on healthier products under the banner ‘Change4Life 4 Less’.

* Asda, which serves 16 million customers a week and employs 165,000 people, will be actively supporting Change4Life in communications to customers and colleagues and will run promotions that encourage healthier eating. Asda has also committed to supporting Bike4Life to promote cycling as a fun, safe activity that all the family can do.

* ITV is pledging to support the Change4Life movement on-screen and online. For example, in the New Year ITV will be running a campaign to encourage its viewers to pledge to lose weight, eat more healthily and take more exercise. Launched on ITV1, the campaign will include eight weeks of national and regional activity, tracking viewers’ progress in meeting personal pledges to lead healthier lives.

* Kellogg’s, the UK’s best selling grocery brand, will expand the highly successful, non-branded, Breakfast Clubs programme under the Breakfast4Life umbrella. This project includes an investment of £100,000 a year for the next 3 years. Kellogg’s aims to create Breakfast Clubs in the 500 most deprived areas in Britain, and provide access to all children in the UK by 2013. Kellogg’s will support the Swim4Life programme by providing an additional £240,000 a year.

* PepsiCo will support Play4Life by funding advertising to promote the benefits of active play and use the wealth of sporting talent contracted to them. PepsiCo has a portfolio of household brands that are well placed to support Change4Life, according to the Government. Through Tropicana for example, they will extend their partnership with their current breakfast club partner, Magic Breakfast under the Breakfast4Life umbrella.

* The Fitness Industry Association will get its 2,500 members to actively promote Change4Life. The FIA will create a Change4Life promotion for Summer 2009, which will involve members opening their doors to new exercisers, free of charge, to try a range of activities.

* From this week, retailers Spar, Londis, Costcutter, Premier, Nisa and Mills Group are taking part in a Change4Life pilot in the North East to improve the quality and the promotion of fresh fruit and veg. They are investing in new chillers and storage areas, providing tips and hints to customers and staff on how to eat more fruit and vegetables, as well as offering promotions on fruit and veg. The programme will be rolled out nationally from next spring.

* The Advertising Association’s Business4Life coalition has 33 members representing a broad range of commercial partners from retailers to manufacturers, media, agencies and representative bodies. They will deliver a media equivalent value of £200 million of in-kind contribution.

Change4Life means that, from January onwards, families will start to see new local initiatives providing support, help and advice to help them live more healthily. For example, there will be healthy food promotions and recipes in supermarkets, walking campaigns, cycling groups or free swimming for under 16s and over 60s. This will be backed up by a major advertising campaign.

“The message that we received from parents was clear – we recognises that obesity is a big problem, but it’s not our problem,” Mr Johnson added. “Finger wagging and lecturing won’t work, that’s why Change4Life is designed to be supportive and helpful.”