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Whole Systems Obesity

Whole Systems Approach to Tackle Obesity

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What is the project about?

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Obesity is a major global health crisis, one in four adults are obese* and childhood obesity has been classed by the World Health Organisation as one of the most serious challenges for the 21st Century with significant health, social and economic consequences.

However, tackling obesity is a complex and multifaceted problem with over a hundred contributing factors as identified in the Foresight Tackling Obesities systems map. Therefore, to help to address this epidemic, we need to look across all the different factors and explore what can be done over the short, medium and long term within a sustained whole systems approach.

The role of local authorities (LAs) in tackling and working to prevent obesity is crucial. Public Health England, the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Public Health are exploring how to make greater in-roads into tackling obesity by developing whole systems approaches’ that act across the local system. Leeds Beckett University has been commissioned to lead a three year programme to explore with LAs and other partners what a Whole Systems Approaches may look like on the ground.

What will the outputs of the programme be?

Leeds Beckett University and a range of other partners will be working closely with LAs to understand what is working well and what the opportunities and realities are for LAs in tackling obesity. The goal is to co-produce a roadmap that will enable LAs to make a major step change in dealing with this important and challenging issue.

The key to this is exploring what works and what might work, drawing on both international learning and the experiences of colleagues working in LAs across England, UK and internationally. We aim to produce a first draft of this roadmap by autumn 2016, and a tested, refined and expanded final version by September 2018.  The programme is also likely to generate new research findings. Find out more about the project.

For enquiries about the study, please contact us on  

To enquire and to sign up to our free newsletter, register your interest.

*Health & Social Care Information Centre. (2014) Health Survey for England, 2013: Health, social care and lifestyles: summary of findings. [online] Health & Social Care Information Centre. Available at: [Accessed 03 July 2015].

Community of Learning

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our recent Community of Learning Survey. We are collating examples of who is doing what in terms of creating a whole systems approach to obesity, or another wellbeing-related subject, and will publish the results of this survey shortly.

If anyone who did not complete this survey would still like to tell us about your experiences of whole systems working, please contact us at


Designing a better approach will ensure progress in tackling obesity - National Conference, 18th October 2016

Nearly 300 people were at the conference at Leeds Town Hall to discuss emerging findings from the programme. The audience included colleagues from local authorities all over the country, as well as from community and voluntary groups, national and regional organisations, research bodies and the NHS, interested in finding new and better ways of tackling obesity.

The conference marked the end of the first year of the three-year programme, which aims to apply new learning about creating whole systems approaches to one of the most challenging and complex problems facing society.

The audience heard speakers from Public Health England, the Association of Directors of Public Health and Leeds Beckett, as well as Ian Fytche, CEO of North Kesteven District Council, one of the local authorities piloting the new approach

Speakers stressed the urgency and importance of tackling obesity with one third of children aged 2 to 15 being overweight or obese, and younger generations becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer. They also outlined the progress being made in designing a better approach, which brings together all of the organisations and groups that can change the environment in which we all live, and make it easier to make healthier choices.

Experts at Leeds Beckett are exploring how local authorities can use their leadership, levers, and relationships with stakeholders and communities to create a more effective, sustainable, system-wide approach to tackling obesity. Delegates also attended discussions led by Public Health England, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Children’s Food Trust, the Soil Association, Helping Overcome Obesity Problems (HOOP) and a range of researchers from Leeds Beckett, The University of Leeds, Newcastle University, London Metropolitan University and Cambridge University.

Read the latest newsletter

 Click here to read our July 2016 newsletter. It covers:

  • National Event on 18th October, Leeds
  • About the programme and its objectives
  • Learning so far about benefits of whole systems working
  • What’s happening internationally – report
  • Using your feedback to inform the route map
  • Feedback from our survey on Whole Systems Approaches
  • Consultation and communications – can you suggest a network/event