I recently blogged about the alarming rates of obesity among children in England, with one in four 4-5 year old children and one in three 10-11 year olds in this country obese or overweight. The Foresight report, published in 2007, ominously predicts that by 2050 90% of British children will be overweight or obese.
The British Government has now responded to this issue by launching a huge campaign to persuade the population to switch to a healthier lifestyle. The Change4Life strategy will promote the message “eat well, move more, live longer” on TV, in the press, on billboards and online initially for 3 months, and will continue over 3 years. The initiative will be supported by £200m of advertising and marketing donated by food companies such as Tesco, Mars, Nestlé and Flora.
Dawn Primarolo, minister for public health, said today: “We are trying to create a lifestyle revolution on a grand scale. There are very serious health consequences with allowing dangerous quantities of fat to build up in our bodies. This is not just an ad campaign – we are calling it a lifestyle revolution – it is a long-running concerted effort to change behavior.”
The television campaign launches on Saturday 3rd January with adverts designed by Aardman Animations, the people behind the much loved plasticine duo Wallace and Gromit. The engaging clip is designed to warn viewers of the health risks associated with being overweight and is targeted at helping young families change their lifestyle for good.
Change4Life is the biggest Government campaign ever launched and is expected to follow in the success of similar cross-media anti-smoking initiatives. Unlike anti-smoking public awareness strategies though, this campaign steers away from shock tactics and instead offers practical advice.
Critics have been quick to point out that the involvement of food companies in the campaign is a way for such corporations to cast their brand in a healthy light without actually changing the salt or fat content of their food. Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum warned that junk food companies were donating millions to the campaign as a way of heading off the “regulation they fear”.
The Telegraph notes that “neither the leaflets nor the screen advertisements use the word obesity”, preferring instead to state that children could grow up to have “dangerous levels of fat in their body”. The campaign is designed to avoid pointing the finger at any one group, however, specifically avoiding talking about ‘fat bodies’ and blaming modern life rather than parents.
Let’s hope that the more kindly, blame-free approach of Change4Life gets the people of the UK off the sofa and helps to avert our obesity timebomb.
- If you’re skeptical, the Big Question in The Independent casts a critical eye over the Change4Life campaign, asking whether the Government can really make us eat less.
- On the other hand, it you want to get serious about improving your lifestyle there is stacks of information on how to eat better, move more and live longer on the Change4Life website.