No 18, Session 2002-03                                   28 March 2003

New Inquiry - Terms of Reference: OBESITY

The Health Committee will undertake an inquiry into the above subject.  The inquiry will cover:

  • The health implications of obesity
    What are the health outcomes of obesity in society?  What are the economic and social costs? What efforts is the Government making to evaluate these?

  • Trends in obesity
    What are the trends in obesity (including trends among particular groups, by social class, age, gender, ethniticity and lifestyle?  What is the relationship between obesity and other health inequalities? What are the international comparisons? (EU, OECD, USA)?

  • What are the causes of the rise in obesity in recent decades?
    What has been the role of changes in diet? To what extent have changes in lifestyle, particularly moves to a more sedentary lifestyle, been influential?  How much is lack of physical activity contributing to the problem?

  • What can be done about it?
    What is the range of 'levers' and drivers (food industry, marketing, education, family life, genetics, drugs, surgery)?  Within that range, what role can the food industry, marketing and advertising, transport, schooling play?  What are the responsibilities of the food industry in respect of marketing? How influential is the media?  How can the amount of physical activity being undertaken be increased?  To what extent can and should Government, at central and local level, influence lifestyle choices?  How coherent is national and local strategy?  What is international best practice?

  • Are the institutional structures in place to deliver an improvement?
    What is the role of the Department of Health (DoH) and of the NHS, including that of primary care, hospitals and specialist clinics?  How effective are the structures for health promotion?  Can health promotion compete with huge food sector advertising budgets?  To what extent can the food industry be part of a solution?  To what extent is the Food Standards Agency influential?  How well is the DoH liaising with, and what is the role of, other central and local government departments and bodies?  What is the role of schools, including sport in schools?  Who should 'own' and, drive delivery?  Have we the appropriate institutional structures, budgets and priorities?

  • Recommendations for national and local strategy
    How can the Government's strategy be improved?  What are the policy options? Can they be better integrated? What are the priorities for action?

Organisations and individuals wishing to submit written evidence are invited to do so no later than Wednesday 30 April 2003. 

Evidence sessions are likely to commence in May and a later press notice will give details of these.

A guide to preparing written evidence for the Health Committee is found on the main Committees page.  The Committee requests that evidence should be concise and in the form of a self-contained memorandum, prepared according to the guidelines set out by the terms of reference given above and preferably submitted electronically to healthcommem@parliament.uk .   Please note that the Health Committee is unable to investigate individual cases.