Amsterdam’s Success in Tackling Childhood Obesity

AmsterdamTxtDo you want to be inspired?

Here is some good news: Amsterdam has been successful in tackling childhood obesity!

They launched the ‘Amsterdam Healthy Weight Programme’ and the whole city managed to reduce the total number of overweight and obese children by 10% within the first two years.
This means 2000 fewer overweight children.

Moreover, the programme proved especially successful for children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. 

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World Obesity Day – Action vs. Talking


Tuesday 11th October 2016 marked World Obesity Day. It was a day to take stock and assess the situation we are currently in, where 29% of adults and 15% of children in Scotland are obese and to look at the vision of universal healthy lifestyles and consider: how can we get there?
With adult obesity rates at unacceptable levels and a growing gap in obesity related to inequalities, we must be serious about how we tackle the obesity crisis.

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Obesity, Physical Activity and Cancer

Map of a run round London

What do obesity and physical inactivity have in common?
If you said that they both sound unhealthy, you'd be right: they are serious cancer risks.

In fact, they increase the risk of many cancers: breast, bowel, prostate, uterus, liver, pancreas and others.

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Put the Health of Young People First

JanUary2017In 2017, Scotland’s young people suffer from obesity more than any generation before them. Dr Anna Strachan, Policy Officer for Obesity Action Scotland, calls for urgent action to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Monday 9th January marks the start of National Obesity Awareness Week. Organisations and companies from across the UK are coming together to invite everyone to ‘Do something good for JanUary’. Whether it’s cooking more healthily, avoiding snacks or being a little more physically active, the aim is to make a healthy New Year’s resolution now!

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Dreaming About the 21st Century Food Policy: Unthinkable!

Girl with an apple

Smoke-free buses, hospitals, or pubs were a wild, unthinkable idea forty years ago. Yet, today the opposite is unthinkable. Big dreams change the world.

The 12th of December 2016 was a day to dream big at the 2016 City Food Symposium in London. A day of reflection on the past and the future of food policy, over thirty speakers, reasons to be depressed, reasons to be cheerful, effortless networking, comedy, drama, stories of lost battles and of success, all concluded with a festive cup of mulled wine.

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Body Fatness and Cancer

Annie AndersonGuest Blog: Professor Annie S. Anderson

For decades cancer has been associated with weight loss and under nutrition. Cancer survivors still report health care staff being concerned if they report a decreased body weight – even if this is due to intentional weight loss.

Today's paper from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) provides a timely reminder about why we need to take the growing evidence on excess body fat and the opportunity for cancer risk reduction seriously.

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The UK Government has bottled it


The UK Government has bottled it. They have backed out of the bold action needed to tackle the obesity epidemic within the UK. How did we get here? How did such a long wait in anticipation become such a frustrating disappointment?

In October 2015 the chief executive of PHE Duncan Selbie was being grilled by the UK Health Select Committee on PHE evidence on the actions needed to tackle sugar consumption. Duncan Selbie said at the time that this was a “marvellous moment” that Government was accepting PHE advice and the outcome would be a childhood obesity strategy that will work. “One which doesn’t exist in the world and we are on the cusp of having” were his exact words. The Heath Secretary and Prime Minister promised a “game-changing strategy” to tackle a “national emergency”.

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Walking round Italy in speedy fashion!

Rome photograph




We made it!

Two weeks ago we ‘arrived’ in Rome after our big walk round Italy. Logging our respective steps (all 1,691,922 of them!) got us round Italy and into Rome much faster than the 100 days we had allowed.

So perhaps the next walking challenge needs to be, well, more challenging!
We’ve still to arrange our Mediterranean feast to celebrate, but maybe we should use this as a carrot for our next walking adventure?
We are now embarking on a grand tour of Poland – home country of our Policy Officer, Anna.

A Guideline is Just a Guideline

Brazil Dietary Guidelines Report Cover

University of Edinburgh logo“Values are as important as evidence. Do we need a randomised control trial to tell us that eating food together is a good idea?”

A striking statement that stimulated reflection from the audience at a recent event we were delighted to co-host with the University of Edinburgh.

The event saw two representatives from Brazil, who were instrumental in the creation of the recently published Brazilian dietary guidelines, speak about the journey from concept to published dietary guidelines. A process filled with challenges, not least opposition from industry, but also from fellow nutritionists who were initially reluctant to see change.

The distinct and ground breaking aspect of the Brazilian work has been the move away from nutrient based guidelines to ones based on real meals. They used the ‘NOVA system’ which classifies foods according to the extent of processing involved.

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Tackling Obesity: What we learned from nutrition labelling research

Nutrition label montage

At the end of June we co-hosted a ‘meeting-of-the-minds’ at the Psychology Department of Stirling University. The event aimed at developing multidisciplinary understanding and communication between stakeholders who are working to tackle obesity in Scotland.

The impact of nutritional labelling on food purchasing and consumption behaviour was the topic of the day. Attendees also found out about the interests and motivations of different stakeholders and had a chance to learn from the experience of experts. The meeting was designed to promote networking and help to shape communication and knowledge sharing within the proposed alliance to tackle obesity in Scotland.

After ‘speed-dating’ introductions, Professor Linda Bauld, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing at the University Stirling, discussed what those working to tackle obesity in Scotland can learn from the alliance against tobacco.

This was followed by presentations on the impact of nutritional labelling on behaviour.

  • Dr Seda Erdem from University of Stirling spoke about how our choices are influenced by food marketing and labelling, explaining her hot-off-the-press research which tracked eye movements when looking at food packaging.
  • Dr Julia Allan from University of Aberdeen talked about how to nudge people to make healthier choices. A simple scale showing calorie content of foods and drinks in a university canteen resulted in an average consumer buying 66kcal less every day. Accumulated over a year that could prevent a person from gaining 6lb!
  • Dr Rachel Crockett from the Psychology Department of University of Stirling finished the morning session with a passionate talk on how to modify the world around us to promote healthy choices, all supported by the evidence on nutritional labelling.
  • Dr Stephan Dombrowski from the University of Stirling rounded off the morning talks in humourous style!

We led the afternoon session, with workshops on joint working and knowledge sharing. Attendees’ role-played scenarios that required finding solutions to a problem. What we saw was that while it may be difficult to agree, it is important to talk and understand others, and while all roles are difficult and there is not always enough evidence, links between research and policy are crucial.

Take home messages from the day:

  • Lessons from tobacco showed that many small steps are a key to change; labelling should be one of the steps to transforming the obesogenic environment into one that promotes healthy weight
  • An obesity alliance in Scotland needs to keep effective communication at its heart
  • Researchers and policy makers must work together to make sure that the evidence needed to tackle obesity is available

A big thank you to University of Stirling Psychology Department for hosting a great event!

Obesity Alliance - Next Steps

Obesity Alliance logo

After our initial meeting in April, which supported the creation of an alliance to tackle obesity in Scotland, we have made steady progress. 

A small ‘planning group’ consisting of representatives from across the spectrum of potential alliance members e.g. third sector, public sector and academia will now form and shape the Alliance.

The initial role of this group is to draft proposals to present to the wider Alliance partners, opening discussion on; alliance purpose, structure, outline communications plan and potential priority issues.

The timeframe for this looks like:

  • Aug: planning group meeting
  • Aug-Sept: planning group communications
  • Oct Nov: meeting of alliance partners
  • Dec: alliance launch

Obesity Action Scotland will chair and co-ordinate the planning group process and will draft papers for consideration at planning group meetings.

For further information or any questions, please contact Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead on: | 0141 465 7260

Meet Kirsty, the Holyrood Baby

Kirsty the Holyrood Baby

Have you met the Holyrood Baby?

A creation of Holyrood magazine, the Holyrood Baby, named Kirsty, emerged during the 2014 referendum when Nicola Sturgeon asked us to imagine a 'Kirsty' and what kind of Scotland we wanted her to grow up in. Born on 12th may 2016, Kirsty is growing up in the real Scotland and facing the same challenges that confront all newborn children in Scotland today.

We recently wrote about the future prospects for Kirsty in Holyrood magazine; she has an uncertain future in an environment that encourages weight gain and seems to accept it as inevitable.

Is this the kind of Scotland we want Kirsty to grow up in?

What will you do to help change it?

Is Our Obesity Epidemic as Bad as it Gets?

Obesity Action Scotland: the Chair's Blog

It is now a year since Obesity Action Scotland arrived on the scene.

A creature of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland, hosted by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and staffed by a dedicated 4 people, it has made an early and influential impact on approaches to preventing obesity in Scotland. 

The unit’s lead, Lorraine Tulloch, wrote recently about Kirsty, the Holyrood Baby, a creation of Holyrood magazine. This baby has an uncertain future in an environment that encourages weight gain and seems to accept it as inevitable. This future should not be the most likely outcome for babies that we are welcoming into the world in Scotland.

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Tackling Obesity: What can we learn from Nutrition Labelling Research?

On Thursday we’ll be attending a ‘meeting-of-the-minds’ event at Stirling University, aimed at developing multidisciplinary understanding and communication between stakeholders who are working to tackle obesity in Scotland.
The event will focus on nutritional labelling and we’re looking forward to finding out more about the interests and motivations of different stakeholders working in the obesity field.
We will be leading workshops at the event to promote knowledge sharing and joint working to achieve greater success in tackling obesity.

University of Stirling logo


What's Next for Evidence Based Policy Planning?

We’ll be co-facilitating a workshop on obesity next week at the University of Glasgow as part of a one-day conference: 
Evidence for the Future - What's next for evidence based policy planning? 
The keynote speaker is Dr Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, and the event will explore the healthcare challenges facing us and discuss collaborative approaches to address these.
The workshops are intended to promote discussion around healthcare challenges, build on best practice and the lessons learned to gain new insights into how research can better support stakeholders in policy development and implementation for the benefit the health of communities across Scotland.
The line-up of speakers and facilitators looks really exciting and we’re delighted to have been invited to be part of the event.
We’re looking forward to learning about the ‘best and worst’ experiences of others to develop future collaborations.
Event info:

The event is free but you need to register.

University of Glasgow logo

Taking Lessons from Brazil

We’re co-hosting a seminar in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh on 30th June where we’ll be exploring the ground-breaking dietary guidelines introduced in Brazil.
In 2014, the Brazilian government introduced world-leading new dietary guidelines that extend beyond the traditional confines of nutritional policy to engage with environmental sustainability and the social and cultural dimensions of food.
The guidelines take a new approach to categorising foods based on the extent of processing involved rather than with reference to nutrients. The aim is to encourage fresh, minimally processed foods and actively discourage consumption of ultra-processed foods and drink products.
The seminar will give us an opportunity to discuss the ‘Brazilian Experience’ and its lessons for approaches to public health in Scotland.

Event details:
The event is free to attend
Date: 30th June 2016
Time: 10.00-12.00
Venue: 6th floor staff room, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15A George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LD

Download the pdf invitation


We are walking 'round Italy'


We are undertaking an ambitious challenge to ‘walk round Italy’ in 100 days starting on European Obesity Day on 21st May.

Using the World Walking app, set up by Inverclyde Globetrotters, we will log our daily steps using the app, pedometers or fitness watches. This can cover anything from walking to work as part of the daily commute, holding walking meetings instead of traditional sitting meetings, going for walks at lunchtime through to ‘hidden’ steps taken during a typical day – like walking to the kettle to make a cup of tea.

100 Days
Setting the target to complete our Italian tour at 100 days will present a substantial challenge as this equates to almost 17,000 steps per day. While this might not sound ground-breaking when shared over four people, we are aware that being human can also mean forgetting to track steps on occasion, resulting in missed mileage on the journey – Ryan, this is mainly aimed at you!

The route we have chosen starts in Genoa, visiting beautiful cities, such as Milan, Venice and Florence before finishing in Rome. To celebrate completion, we are planning to hold a healthy Mediterranean lunch, but only if we can complete our Italian tour within 100 days!

We will be blogging about our progress, the highs and lows as well as the many ‘virtual’ sights we hope to see on our route.

European Obesity Day


Saturday 21st May is European Obesity Day, organised by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO).

“Obesity is one of the most challenging public health concerns of the 21st century. It is an epidemic that is sweeping Europe and about which not enough is being done.”  EASO.

European Obesity Day is about bringing people together to raise awareness and increase knowledge about obesity and the many other diseases on which it impacts. It brings together healthcare, patient and political communities who are keen to raise awareness of the issue. The theme for EOD 2016 is Action for a Healthier Future.

In 2014, 65% of adults in Scotland were overweight, with 28% classed as obese. This means that two in every three people across the country are overweight or obese. With a newly elected Scottish Parliament entering office, the day presents an opportunity for us to bring the issue of obesity to the fore in Scotland in a co-ordinated effort.

Obesity Action Scotland is calling on individuals and organisations working in the wide arena of obesity and public health to support the day by taking the following actions:

  • Promote the day to your communities and networks in the week leading up to European Obesity Day
  • Sign up to our Thunderclap to send a message to Scotland on 21st May
  • Post your own Obesity Day activities on twitter and hashtag using #ScotlandvsObesity and #EOD2016
  • Follow and RT us on Twitter
  • Need content? Email us and we’ll send you some pre-made tweets for you to paste into your Twitter account
    Find out more on the EASO website 

As part of our ongoing role to turn the tide on obesity in Scotland, see our recent Scottish Election campaign where we asked candidates to support 5 key measures to tackle obesity on Scotland.


Welcome to the New Scottish Parliament

A warm welcome is extended to the newly elected Scottish Parliament. We look forward to working with MSPs from all parties to explore and implement actions to address the levels of obesity and overweight in Scotland.

In 2014, 65% of adults in Scotland were overweight, with 28% classed as obese. This means that two in every three people across the country are overweight or obese. 31% of Scotland's children were at risk of becoming overweight in 2014 with 17% at risk of becoming obese and there is evidence that being obese in childhood increases the risk of becoming an obese adult.

These figures alone are a call for urgent action:


We are calling on all members of the Scottish Parliament to recognise the role of government policy in helping to facilitate a healthier food environment across Scotland and to take a Public Health approach to implementing actions to tackle the issue, such as the successful actions taken with regard to tobacco and alcohol.

Today we are calling on the new Scottish Parliament to support 5 measures to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

5 Measures to Tackle Obesity

Together we can build a food environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice, but only if we become serious about creating a healthier food environment across the country.


On Your Feet Britain

Today is the day when office workers across Britain are being asked to unite and participate in the second On Your Feet Britain Day.

The organisers have provided a list of fun and simple activities to convert sitting time to standing time while at work, including;

  • Stand during phone calls
  • Stand and take a break from your computer every 30 minutes
  • Use the stairs
  • Have standing or walking meetings
  • Eat your lunch away from your desk
  • Walk to your colleague's desk instead of phoning or emailing them
  • Stand at the back of the room during presentation

On Your feet Britain

Two Thirds of Adults are Overweight or Obese

With 65% of the adult population overweight or obese (28% of those classed as obese), there is a requirement for a wide variety of approaches to tackle the rising levels of overweight and obesity in the UK.

As many people spend long days sitting at their desk, looking for new ways to reduce the amount of time spent sitting is welcomed. The ‘small changes’ approach of On Your Feet Britain means everyone can participate and we challenge you to try your own ‘active hacks’ to break up your day at the desk.

So today could be the day you start to build new habits into your day at the office.

Find out more at:

Join in on Twitter:
@obesityactionsc | @getGBstanding | #SitLess | #MoveMore

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