Consultation response

Health and Social Care Committee consultation into the prevention of ill health – obesity: Welsh NHS Confederation response

The consultation will be looking at the effectiveness of Welsh Government strategy, regulations, and associated actions to prevent and reduce obesity.

13 June 2024

Read The Welsh NHS Confederation response to The Health and Social Care Committee’s consultation into the Prevention of ill health – obesity External link icon

Key points

  • Our members agree that there are gaps/areas for improvement in existing policy and the current regulatory framework, including in relation to food/nutrition and physical activity.

  • Our members agree that greater policy integration is required. The Welsh Government’s Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales’s is the long-term strategy to prevent and reduce obesity and includes a national priority area to shape the food and drink environment towards sustainable and healthier options. This priority would benefit from greater alignment with economic and agricultural policy so that longer-term planning of Welsh food production can better meet health and wellbeing goals. 

  • Food system challenges are complex and crosscutting by nature. Recent research in England found that 16 separate government departments had responsibility for an aspect of food policy. Our members recognise that progress is being made by Welsh Government to join up key agendas across government departments, but they are keen to see the evaluation of Universal Primary Free School Meals (UPFSM) for the early impacts on children, families, and schools in Wales. 

  • Our members also advocate for a national co-ordinated evaluation. There is currently no integrated framework for action on food at local, regional, and national level in Wales. A national food strategy is needed. 

  • Finally, there needs to be consideration of a trauma informed approach to understanding obesity, both in terms of causation and presentation. Trauma and related stress hormone release can have a direct impact on insulin take up and result in weight gain. Trauma is also a factor in body image and adds to the complexity of obesity that we need to understand in addition to nutrition and physical activity.

Obesity is a key risk factor for a wide range of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease (including stroke), and some cancers. It also impacts people’s wellbeing, quality of life, and ability to work.

Public Health Wales has previously estimated the cost of obesity to the NHS in Wales as £73m. By 2050, this is estimated to rise to £465m. The broader cost to society and the economy in Wales by 2050 is estimated at £2.4bn.  

The promotion of healthy lifestyles and prevention is one of the priority issues identified in the committee’s strategy for the Sixth Senedd.