Dietary advice, physical activity guidance and support to have healthier habits will be offered as part of the Government’s attempts to tackle obesity.
New services – both virtual and in-person – will be offered to thousands of adults and children across England to help them in trying to have a healthier weight and improve their wellbeing, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
Public health minister Jo Churchill said the aim is to “make the healthier option the easy option”.
Almost two-thirds of adults in England are living with excess weight or obesity, and one in three children leave primary school overweight or obese, the DHSC said.
Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS £6 billion a year, it added.
Some £30 million of new Government funding will go to councils across the country to run expanded management services for adults living with obesity, including 12-week sessions offered on developing healthier habits and having a better diet, the department said.
A majority – 98% – of councils have accepted funding, the DHSC said, and people can sign up for help either through their primary care services or, in some areas, refer themselves through their local authority.
As well as this, from Thursday, adults living with obesity who also have a diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure or both, will be offered free online support to help manage their weight and improve their health.
The NHS Digital Weight Management Programme is supported by £12 million of Government funding, the department said.
Specific help for young people is to be made available in 11 areas using £4.3 million in new funding to expand child weight management services over the next year.
The local authorities which will trial new ways to improve access to services for up to 6,000 children identified as living with excess weight or obesity are: Barking and Dagenham; Brent; Enfield; Hounslow; Waltham Forest; Birmingham; Liverpool; Bradford; Tameside; Sandwell; Kingston Upon Hull.
Ms Churchill said: “We want to make the healthier option the easy option, but we still know losing weight can be difficult for people.
“Making sure the right support is available means that we can help individuals make the most of the positive impact that reaching a healthier weight can have both physically and mentally. The benefit is theirs.
“It’s really important we help people access services that are convenient for them and tailored to their needs.
“By expanding virtual and face-to-face weight management support across the country, we’re bringing improved health and wellbeing closer to home.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said many people had struggled to “keep the pounds off and maintain a healthy weight” during lockdowns and that it is “vital” people are supported to lose weight if needed.
Dr Tedstone said: “The causes of obesity are linked to the places where we live, work and play, where all too often the food on offer and built environment can make it harder to choose the healthier options.
“That’s why Public Health England are also working with local authorities to help make local environments healthier and provide weight management support as part of the Government’s wider national obesity strategy.”
David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said free, targeted programmes “can bring about significant health benefits such as reducing pressure on joints, lowering the risk of cancer, preventing type two diabetes, cutting cholesterol and easing high blood pressure”.
He said the new services were “a positive step and a reflection of our shared commitment with national government to tackling obesity and helping our communities live healthier and more active lives”.