This website places cookies on your device to help us improve our service to you. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies statement.

Obesity: policy context

In February 2010, the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) launched a long-term obesity strategy entitled Preventing Overweight and Obesity in Scotland: A Route Map Towards Healthy Weight.

The Route Map has identified four key areas in which action is likely to have the greatest effect:

  • reducing demand for and consumption of excessive amounts of high calorie foods and drinks;
  • increasing opportunities for uptake of walking, cycling and other physical activity;
  • establishing life-long healthy habits in children; and
  • increasing the responsibility of organisations for the health and wellbeing of their employees.

A Joint Obesity Ministerial Group was established to oversee the implementation of the Route Map. The Scottish Public Health Network has undertaken a Review of the Obesity Route Map (ORM) (Nov 2015) on behalf of the Scottish Public Health Obesity Special Interest Group. It is likely that Scotland will see the development of some new policies and strategies as a result of this review. In their recent Fairer Scotland Action Plan (October 2016), the Scottish Government committed to produce a new strategy on poor diet and obesity as a means to tackle health inequalities.

The publication Obesity Indicators 2016 reports the latest figures for sixteen obesity indicators, selected to monitor progress of the Scottish Government's Prevention of Obesity Route Map.

 The World Health Organization (WHO) Europe has produced a policy brief on Obesity and inequities. Guidance for addressing inequities in overweight and obesity (2014).

Childhood obesity

The Scottish Government also set a national target to reduce the rate of increase in the proportion of children outside the healthy weight range (between the 2nd and 85th percentile of the UK growth reference charts) by 2018, which was revised in 2007 to the current indicator: to increase the proportion of healthy weight children. Progress against this national target is available on the Scottish Government website.

Elsewhere, in England, the Commons Health Select Committee recently published Childhood obesity - brave and bold action (2015), which recommends a reduction in promotions of products high in sugar, salt and fat and a ban on promotions of high calorie food at till points. It also endorses calls from Public Health Englandto broaden controls on advertising to children and introduce a cap on portion sizes. Other recommendations include changes to food labelling and more provision for physical education in schools. In September 2016, the UK Government published a response to this House of Commons Health Select Committee report on childhood obesity after having published the policy document Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action(August 2016).

The WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity recently published a report, Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) , after a two-year process to address the alarming levels of childhood obesity and overweight globally. This proposes a range of recommendations for governments aimed at reversing the rising trend of children aged under 5 years becoming overweight and obese.

Management of obesity

There is specific guidance on the clinical management of obesity in Scotland in the form of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN) Guideline No. 115 (although some recommendations may be out of date). The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also published several reports and guidance on the prevention and management of obesity.


Page last updated: 15 September 2017

© Scottish Public Health Observatory 2014