The NHS Digital Weight Management Programme launches today (1st July) to help thousands of adults and children across England to achieve a healthy weight and boost their wellbeing. 

The programme is part of the government's drive to tackle obesity and will offer free online support via GP and primary care teams for adults living with obesity, who also have a diagnosis of diabetes and/or high blood pressure. 

Two thirds of adults live with excess weight or obesity in England

Obesity is one of the biggest health crises currently facing the UK, with almost two thirds of adults and one third of children in England living with excess weight or obesity. 

Living with obesity is a major health risk and is a leading cause of preventable illness and premature death nationally, costing the NHS £6 billion a year.

Evidence suggest that weight management services can help people to adopt healthier behaviours, lose weight and improve their general wellbeing. 

For this reason, the government is providing £30 million of funding to councils across England to roll out expanded management services for adults living with obesity. Services can be delivered face-to-face, remotely or digitally, and individuals will be able to sign up via their primary care services or in some areas refer themselves via their local authority. 

Services include 12-week sessions, with dietary advice, physical activity guidance and support to help people start and maintain healthier habits. 

A further £4.3 million of funding has also been allocated to 11 local authorities to support the expansion of child weight management services. The authorities will trial new ways to improve access to services for up to 6,000 children identified as living with excess weight or obesity.

The government hopes to halve the number of children living with obesity by 2030

The initiative is particularly important now after the pandemic highlighted the impact that living with obesity can have on people’s health. Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said it is more important than ever to make it easier for people to move towards a healthier weight.  

She continued: "Many of us have struggled throughout the pandemic and lockdowns to keep the pounds off and maintain a healthy weight. It’s vital that everyone can get support to lose weight if they need it, so it’s particularly timely and hugely welcome to see these new services opening.  

"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."

The Digital Weight Management Programme will run alongside other initiatives such as restricting the advertising of products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) on TV before 9pm and online, restricting promotions of unhealthy food and drink in retail stores, and introducing calorie labelling in large out-of-home food businesses such as restaurants, cafes and takeaways. In this way, the government hopes to halve the number of children living with obesity by 2030.