SOA Chair Blog - Spring 2023
13 January 2023
I hope all who are reading this had a wonderful holiday season, and are having a Happy New Year. It has been a while since our last blog, so I thought I would provide an update on the achievements and priorities of the Alliance.
Obesity in the UK, and Scotland in particular, has been increasing since the COVID pandemic. This increase in obesity is not affecting everyone equally. Children from low-income families have an increased risk of obesity and related illnesses. In spite of this worsening situation, big corporations continue to promote HFSS foods at mass scale, putting their short-term profits ahead of our nation’s health and the health of our children. In response, we call on our representatives to pass legislation that ensures that every Scottish person, no matter where they live or how much money they have, has easy access to healthy, affordable food, and is not forced to encounter marketing designed to manipulate them into buying junk food. We also want to ensure that small businesses, also hard-hit by the pandemic, have the support they need to make adjustments.
The good news is that several policies are in development in both the UK and Scottish governments to combat obesity. For example, despite the turmoil that has enveloped the UK government in recent months and a disappointing delay in the UK wide watershed ban on TV and online junk food advertising, legislation took effect in October that bans the promotion of HFSS foods in the front of supermarkets in England, with additional legislation that would restrict “buy one get one half price” promotions for unhealthy food due to take effect in 2024. Meanwhile, Scotland is considering similar legislation, and we at the Scottish Obesity Alliance are making sure our voice is heard when it comes to advice about these policies.
Last Autumn, we participated in a consultation with the Scottish government where we shared our stance on restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods. We advised the Government to take a rigorous approach to restricting unhealthy food promotion, with no exemptions. We provided them with data to back up our recommendations, and we will continue to advocate for prompt action that improves health for all. The Government’s publication resulting from consultations can be viewed here.
In addition to the consultation, in the past year I have been involved in several publications around the marketing of HFSS foods, including:
- Carters-White, L.E., Patterson, C., Nimegeer, A., Hilton, S. and Chambers, S. (2022) Newspaper framing of food and beverage corporations’ sponsorship of sport: a content analysis. BMC Public Health, (Accepted for Publication)
- Carters-White, L., Hilton, S., Skivington, K. and Chambers, S. (2022) Children’s, parents’ and professional stakeholders’ views on power concerning the regulation of online advertising of unhealthy food to young people in the UK: A qualitative study. PLoS ONE, 17(6), e0268701. (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0268701) (PMID:35696387)
See a full list of my recent publications here.
As an alliance we also recognise the impact the wider built environment has on both our diets and our levels of physical activity. We therefore also submitted a response to the consultation on NPF4 earlier in 2022 and we are delighted to see this move on with a new draft NPF4 introduced in last few weeks. We will be studying this new version closely.
All of this work is in line with the priorities we set as a Scottish Obesity Alliance as part of our preparations for the Scottish Parliament Election in 2021.
I am optimistic that the Scottish Government will come through on the much-needed regulations that will reprioritise our food system so that the health of our people comes first and our built environment has health at its heart. I will continue to act in my capacity as Chair of the Scottish Obesity Alliance to engage in advocacy efforts around these issues, including efforts that give a voice to underrepresented people within our nation, such as children. You can read more about our upcoming plans to co-produce youth advocacy videos here, but I also encourage you to stay tuned for announcements about our upcoming in-person event, as well as publicise our work and follow us on Twitter @soa_tweets.
Professor Shona Hilton
Chair, Scottish Obesity Alliance