The move forces brands to take a bigger role as the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition looks at ways to meet its commitment to slash marketing spend.
Speaking at the UK Faculty of Public Health’s annual conference, health secretary Andrew Lansley says he was impressed with the achievements of Change4Life but favoured a new approach “less paid for by government, more backed by business, less about costly advertising, more about supporting family and individual responses”.
“We will be progressively scaling back the amount of taxpayers’ money spent on Change4Life and asking others, including the charities, the commercial sector and local authorities, to fill the gap. While government pump-primed the brand, we will now withdraw the primer and engage others to share in making Change4Life really work – and we will focus on extending its reach and effectiveness, especially in social media,” he adds.
Lansley adds the coalition government would press the industry to provide funding towards Change4Life and do more to make it work.
“If we are to reverse the trends in obesity, the commercial sector needs to change their business practices, including how they promote their brands and product reformulation, adding “we will work with partners in Change4Life to give people better information in less prescriptive ways.
The future of Change4Life as it was had been in doubt following the government’s vow to cut advertising spend and implement strict criteria that any department spending more than £25,000 had to meet. A recent Cabinet Office document stated that public health campaigns costing more than that amount had to provide “unequivocal evidence” that they delivered “measurable benefits relating directly to immediate public health and safety”.
The move comes as YouGov research found that cooking shows and documentaries are more influential than the government’s healthy eating campaigns.
According to YouGov SixthSense data, only 10% of UK adults claim that they are influenced in what they eat by government healthy eating campaigns; this figure drops to 8% for the less affluent members of society.
Research director for YouGov SixthSense, James McCoy, says: “If the government wishes to provide a viable alternative to Jamie Oliver, then it would be wise to re-examine its own record thus far. There is considerable evidence in our report which suggests government influence is often marginal.”
Lansley says he will also consider extending the Change4Life partnership to the drinks industry, “who also have a major further role to play in promoting healthier lifestyles. Change4Life is not just about obesity and physical activity but other ways to be healthy.”
The move comes after a report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published late last week showed that one in four UK adults were classified as obese in 2008, compared to one in six in 1994.