DoH under fire over Change4Life 'sponsorship'

It 'beggars belief' that 'companies that fuel obesity' are sponsoring the government's obesity initiative, The Lancet argues.

Photograph: iStockphoto/Kelly Cline
Photograph: iStockphoto/Kelly Cline

The editorial says it is astonishing that ‘the makers of the very products that contribute to obesity’ are providing £200m of sponsorship for the ‘Change4Life’ campaign.

‘Nobody doubts that innovative ways are urgently needed to achieve behaviour change at a population level for the prevention of an impending obesity epidemic and its related threats to health,’ it says.

The Lancet says it recognises that social marketing principles can be a useful addition to regulation, education, and the provision of real and appropriate choice. But it adds: ‘Before embarking on such a new approach, however, there needs to be a thorough understanding of what works on the basis of reliable data. And ill-judged partnerships with companies that fuel obesity should have been avoided.’

A DoH spokesman said:
'We are taking a whole-society approach to help influence and shift behaviours around diet and physical activity as we recognise that many organisations have influence with and can reach our target audiences in ways that we cannot.  

’We are working with a number of commercial partners to help influence people’s behaviour and will do this by tapping into the power of their reach to the target audience and their brand loyalties – working to make changes in food manufacturing, shopping habits, supporting new activity schemes and spreading the word in the press, television and radio.

'Before any commercial company can work with us on Change4Life, they must sign up to our terms of engagement, which require companies to commit to working with us on both healthy diet and physical activity initiatives.’

The DoH said commercial partners who have signed up to Change4Life are Tesco, Asda, Pepsico, Kellogg’s, The Co-operative Group, the Fitness Industry Association, the Advertising Association, Spar, Costcutter, Nisa, Premier and Mills Group. They are not donating money to the Change4Life campaign but have pledged to do various things in support.

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