All about the NOF

About the NOF

The National Obesity Forum is a charity which was formed in 2000, here with the remit of raising awareness of obesity in the UK and promoting the ways in which it can be addressed. This includes public-facing initiatives and the training of clinicians and healthcare professionals on how to identify and address weight management issues and obesity. The National Obesity Forum campaign to raise public awareness of obesity and the ways it can be tackled through achievable and manageable lifestyle changes.


Theresa May has stipulated that every child is to be weighed by default in her Plan for Action to tackle childhood obesity. That is very welcome.  But, since the Plan’s announcement in August, there has been total silence on what “ default “ actually means.  Neither Nr 10 nor the Department of Health or any of the Medical Royal Colleges * who might have been expected to be consulted on the issue appear to have any idea of the detail.  That is plainly wrong.  The National Obesity Forum believes that, after 4 months, it is high time that the small print was published to prove how much serious thinking on the Plan has been done.  

Just explaining what “ default “ actually means would be helpful.  If it means that every child is weighed every time it shows up for a medical check, that would be rubbish: on average a child comes into contact with a health professional some 50 times by the time it leaves school.  If however it was weighed at set times in order to identify a concerning weight trend, the programme would be brilliant.  After all, animals are weighed annually in zoos to check on their health and our cars get an MOT yearly once over, so why not our children?  Without such a programme another stated objective in the Plan - the identification of weight issues early on – will not be achievable.

Weighing children is nothing new.  Indeed, programmes were initiated over a hundred years ago but they were axed before childhood obesity ever became a serious problem.  Currently a child is weighed a few times in its first year of life but hardly at all thereafter.  The Forum holds the view that this omission, over many years, to a huge number of children with critical weight gain not being identified and referred for treatment.  A quarter of our 4-5 yr old population didn’t get overweight or obese overnight.  Their plight is, in the words of the Secretary of State, is a “ great scandal “ – and he could have added that it is one that he should have substantially attenuated..

It is not as if he and former Health Secretaries were left in any doubt as to what to do.  In his 2002 Annual Report the Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, called on all primary care professionals – GPs, health visitors, school nurses and the rest - to identify the early stages of childhood obesity and offer early interventions.  By 2004 the House of Commons’ Health Select Committee [HSC] recommended to the government that every child in primary school to be assessed for BMI annually. Again in 2010 Donaldson recommended that schoolchildren have annual fitness tests and most recently Dr Sarah Wollaston, the current HSC chair, repeated the call by the predecessors. Indeed to-day’s HSC recommends that the public health survey taken at 4-5yrs be brought forward to one at aged 2yrs.  In the opinion of the National Obesity Forum, a default weighing programme should be implemented as soon as possible at all these ages. Had they been when recommended, there is no doubt that  tens of thousands of excessively overweight children would have been spotted and could have been helped not to drift into obesity.

The Plan for Action already has already provided the opportunity.  In a separate provision it has directed schools from the 2017/18 academic year to begin to deliver 30 minutes of physical activity and what better than to assess fitness levels at the same time, too?  Although the proper interpretation of BMI data might rightfully be the preserve of health professionals, the actual job of assessment could be carried out by any responsible adult once they have been trained to do it.   The equipment required is inexpensive and the methodology uninvasive.  Carried out properly the operation could induce a significant improvement in the country’s obesity figures,

Finally, and from 2017 too, physically activity will be a key part of the new healthy schools rating scheme.  They will have the opportunity to demonstrate what they are doing to help their pupils become or stay healthy and fit.  They will be encouraged to work with  the school nurses, health centres, healthy weight teams in local authorities across the country.  Ofsted inspections will keep them up to the mark.  It’s a win-win situation – and about time, too.

*Royal College of Paediatrics, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Physicians’




Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Health
Department of Health
Richmond House
79 Whitehall
SW1A 2NS                                                                             11 January 2017

Dear Mr Hunt

We are writing this open letter to encourage you to elaborate on measures, set out in the Childhood Obesity Plan, for a default child weighing programme, or to launch a consultation with experts to determine how such an initiative could be best implemented.

Our belief is that such a programme could have a significant impact on levels of childhood obesity that remain dangerously high. It would allow early identification and intervention to prevent overweight and obesity in children that could affect their long-term health outcomes. And over time such a programme could ultimately help in counteracting obesity levels across the population as a whole, in turn reducing the cost of obesity to the NHS.

The inclusion of weighing children within the Childhood Obesity Plan was extremely welcome. While weighing children at every medical appointment would be excessive, an annual check would be in line with the recommendations of experts for annual child health checks, including those of former Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson and Chair of the Health Select Committee Dr Sarah Wollaston.

With one in five children considered overweight or obese by the time they begin primary school, according to the National Child Measurement Programme, we would urge you to implement this part of the Childhood Obesity Plan with all haste. We believe this could be achieved at minimal cost but with great reward. 

Yours sincerely

Professor David Haslam

Chairman, National Obesity Forum

Tam Fry

Spokesman, National Obesity Forum

Third of Britons believe increased school PE and clearer food labelling will be most effective at tackling obesity crisis

0001hrs, 9 January 2016. A third (34 percent) of Britons believe increasing the mandatory amount of time children spend on physical education in schools would be one of the most effective ways of helping to reduce levels of obesity, with a similar number (33 percent) favouring clearer labelling of food and drink products as the most effective way to tackle the UK obesity epidemic, according to a new ComRes poll commissioned for the annual JanUary healthy living campaign.

Schools in England are required to include PE within their curriculums, but are allowed to set the amount of time they spend on physical activity after a government target of two hours a week was scrapped in 2012.

The poll also found that, when asked to choose between a range of potential health measures, nearly a quarter of respondents (23 percent) thought a ban on advertising ‘junk’ foods before a watershed of 9pm would work best, with a similar percentage (24 percent) believing loyalty-style promotions by supermarkets would encourage the purchase of healthy products and be the most effective way of reducing obesity levels.

One in five Britons (21 percent) chose a ban on ‘Buy one get one free’ (Bogof) promotions, with the same percentage of respondents also believing reduced portion sizes and taxes on products high in salt, sugar and fat would be most effective in reducing obesity. 

Nineteen percent of Britons called for more information from government on healthy food and drink. The poll was conducted to coincide with the launch of the annual JanUary campaign (formerly National Obesity Awareness Week), led by the National Obesity Forum and Heart Research UK, and calling on Britons to commit to healthy and sustainable New Year’s Resolutions for 2017.

Barbara Dinsdale, Head of Lifestyle at Heart Research UK, said:

“The scale of the obesity problem in the UK is well known, and puts a strain on public services, particularly the NHS.

“Ultimately, good habits and good choices are needed to address what is an epidemic. That needs to start in school, as well as in the home, and it’s essential children are encouraged to be physically active. But Britons also want to see clear information and to be incentivised to make healthy choices, whether through in-store promotions, smaller portions or better product labelling. There is an opportunity for the food and drink industry to build on the work it’s doing and to help customers make these healthy choices.”

Tam Fry, Spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said:

“There is no quick fix to a problem that’s grown over more than 20 years. We need to encourage children to be more physically active and less wedded to computers, mobiles and television. And we need to ensure children and adults are encouraged to pick healthy foods, and discouraged from those high in sugar, salt and fats.”

Polling information

Q. Which of the following, if any, do you think would be the most effective in helping to improve people’s health and reduce levels of obesity? Please select your top three.



Increasing the mandatory amount of time pupils should spend in PE (physical education) lessons in schools


Clearer food labelling of food and drink products


Loyalty style promotions from supermarkets to reward buying healthier products


Restrictions on advertising ‘junk’ foods before 9pm


Food and drink companies reducing portion sizes


Banning “buy one get one free” promotions in supermarkets on unhealthy products


Extending the principle of the “Soft Drinks Industry Levy” and putting extra taxes on food products high in sugar, salt or fat to increase their cost


More information from government on healthy food and drink


None of these


Don’t know



Base: GB adults (n=2,031)

ComRes interviewed 2,031 GB adults online between 21 and 22 December 2016. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

For further information about the JanUary campaign, or comment from Heart Research UK, please contact Chris Rogers on 020 7793 2536 / 07720 054189.

Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum is also available for interview and contactable on 07850 138822.

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Our Partners

The National Obesity Forum is an independent professional organisation. We are however delighted to acknowledge the support, ampoule both professional and financial, store of other organisations, without which, the work of the NOF would not be possible. In pursuing our aims we have been assisted by, or worked jointly with the following organisations:

  • All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity
  • National Institute of Clinical Excellence
  • Royal College of Paediatricians
  • Association for the Study of Obesity
  • National Audit Office
  • Korean Academy of Family Physicians
  • National Association of Primary Care
  • LighterLife UK Limited
  • Roche Products Ltd
  • Abbott Laboratories
  • Slim Fast Foods Ltd
  • Safeway Foods plc
  • Tanita UK Ltd
  • Sanofi-Aventis Ltd
  • Mantis Surgical Equipment Ltd
  • GlaxoSmithKline UK Ltd
  • Canderel
  • British Meat Nutrition Education Services
  • Carlton TV Ltd
  • The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust
  • The British Liver Trust.