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BACKGROUND: International recommendations urge governments to implement population-based strategies to reduce the burden of obesity. This study assesses the development and implementation of the obesity strategy in England 2008-2011, Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives (HWHL). The aim was to identify if stakeholders perceived HWHL to have made any difference to the action to address obesity in England, with the ultimate objective of identifying insights that could inform the development and implementation of future obesity strategies in England and elsewhere. METHODS: Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews and thematic framework analysis. 40 stakeholders involved in the development and implementation of the obesity strategy were interviewed. RESULTS: Evidence from this study suggests that HWHL was perceived to have made a positive difference to efforts to address obesity in England. It was credited with creating political buy-in, engaging more stakeholders, stimulating and facilitating action, enhancing knowledge and changing attitudes. But it was reported to have failed to fully catalyse action across all government departments and sectors, or to develop adequate mechanisms for learning about the effectiveness of the different elements and actions in the Strategy. Key elements of the Strategy contributing towards to the perceived positive differences included its multi-faceted, inclusive nature; governance structures; monitoring programme to assess progress against national and local targets; child-focus; and funding. The development of the Strategy was said to be stimulated and aided by the prior synthesis of a critical mass of scientific evidence. CONCLUSIONS: The English experience of HWHL lends support to the recommendations to develop population-based obesity strategies. It indicates that in order to stimulate comprehensive, inter-sectoral action, obesity strategies need to take a population-based, multi-faceted approach, be implemented through a clear governance structure, follow a systematic process of aligning goals, objectives and agendas between government departments and sectors with a stake in obesity, and have a clear system of reporting changes in obesity rates against a target. In order to design effective policies and to build the case for continued investment, obesity strategies also need to incorporate a national framework for learning and evaluation from the outset.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Public Health

Publication Date





Adult, Child, England, Health Policy, Health Promotion, Health Services Research, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Obesity, Program Evaluation, Qualitative Research, State Medicine