Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Body Politic

National obesity strategy: what’s the big idea?

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 18 November 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2548
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist and consultant
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

    The government’s newest strategy on obesity is so laden with jargon that it’s hard for non-experts, including the media, to understand what it is all about

    Governments, after a decade in office, face the problem of launching new initiatives into channels littered with the rotting hulks of earlier great ideas. Naturally, ministers hope that the public and the media will have forgotten that an unsolved problem has been tackled before, with often exactly the same rhetoric being used. They are usually right: memories are short, and the huge payroll vote commanded by a government—ministers, academics, advisers, and the whole Greek chorus of sycophants among the commentariat—can persuade the public that this time things will be different.

    These gloomy reflections were triggered by Change4Life, the government’s latest attempt to turn the tide on obesity. If glossy logos could make fat people thin, the Department of Health would have the problem licked. It has devoted a whole report to the Change4Life brand, detailing when it can and cannot be used. (Example: you could promote some new programme for preschool children as Toddle4Life, but you couldn’t sell bariatric surgery as Tummy4Life.) Such are the strictures that I am not even …

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