Today (11 October) is World Obesity Day (external website) and NHS Health Scotland welcomes the focus being placed on one of the main public health issues in Scotland. This year the focus is on childhood obesity and countries around the world will be considering what they can do to tackle it. Scotland is no different. This morning, Cancer UK published figures (external website) showing that 1.7 million children started secondary school overweight or obese in last decade. There is a growing body of evidence of the association between obesity and reduced social wellbeing, educational attainment and reduced quality of life. Given this, and the significant burden it places on the NHS, social care services and on the Scottish economy as a whole, this is an issue that NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Government are working together to address. 

Dr Gerry McCartney, Consultant in Public Health, NHS Health Scotland, said 

“Obesity is a problem because people are eating more and living less active lives. We also know that those living in the most socio-economically deprived circumstances experience multiple disadvantages and exposures that increase their risk of obesity. The reasons for this are complex and so too are the solutions. To address obesity we must create an environment that makes it easier to build physical activity into our everyday lives and which reduces exposure to unhealthy food. That means restricting the marketing, availability and low cost of unhealthy foods as well as making places safer and more attractive to walk and play in.” 

NHS Heath Scotland is working with partners to promote a number of actions to tackle obesity. For example, with Architecture and Design Scotland and the Scottish Government we are promoting the use of the Place Standard. It is a tool that can be used to help ensure that communities can influence the planning and design of their local areas so that opportunities to make healthy and active choices can be designed with and by the people who live there. We are also working with the Scottish Government to provide evidence to inform the work of their strategy to tackle obesity and are considering ways to use regulation such as the sugar levy so that healthy eating options are easier.