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Claire Griffiths

A Whole Systems Approach

The programme is seeking to understand the following major questions:
  • How can the framework set out by Foresight be best translated into a ‘Whole Systems Approach’ appropriate for the local system?
  • What does it mean in practice for Local Authorities (LAs)? What does it look like and what are the key principles?
  • How can LAs create a whole systems approach and what benefits can it bring?

This programme aims to support the vital leadership role of LAs in tackling obesity by working collaboratively with them.  It will help equip LAs with approaches to make headway in what is an increasingly complex and challenging landscape involving many sectors with competing priorities and resource pressures. A whole systems approach seeks to link together many of the influencing factors on obesity and will require co-ordinated action and integration across multiple sectors including health, social care, planning, housing, transport and business to bring about major change to combating obesity, making better use of resources and improving wellbeing and prosperity.

Foresight in its ‘Tackling Obesities: future choices’ report outlined that the underlying environmental and behavioural drivers perpetuating obesity exist in a complex and multifaceted system. Tackling obesity effectively will therefore require the development of a sustained ‘whole systems approach’.  This approach joins up the many influences on obesity that promotes transformative, coordinated action across a wide variety of sectors, many of whom are outside what has traditionally been referred to as the health sector. By working across multiple disciplines, this will help us to identify the opportunities to support individuals at key points throughout their lives to help reduce the occurrence and impact of obesity.

There is no single approach for bringing about major system change. Instead, success depends on identifying the most crucial components and having a strong understanding of what is needed to create and implement the culture, networks and environment for them to flourish. At the heart of this are our colleagues working in LAs and within communities. This programme will seek to explore their experiences, share learning and help to maximise promising practice on the ground.

As part of our research, we will engage with partners from every sector highlighted in the Foresight map and draw on best practice for taking a whole systems approach to tackling obesity. To facilitate discussion and networking, we will establish a ‘Community of Learning’ to enable us to share emerging ideas and findings as they arise, seek views, evidence and case studies from others and to sense check our emerging findings. If you would like to be involved, please register your interest here.

Our aim is to put LAs first and work in partnership with Public Health England, the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Public Health and other partners to translate Foresight’s vision into practical processes and tools. We will co-produce a roadmap which will make a real difference for Local Authorities in tackling and preventing obesity.

Foresight Report

This report has been produced by the UK Government’s Foresight Programme. It takes a strategic 40 year forward look at how the UK can respond sustainably to rising levels of obesity.
Download the report

Foresight Map

This report presents the visual representations of the obesity system map developed to understand the wide range of different factors that influence levels of obesity and how they interact.
Download the report

Public Health England's Priorities

See Evidence Into Action.

Public Health England Obesity

The Public Health England obesity website provides a single point of contact for wide-ranging authoritative information on data, evaluation, evidence and research related to weight status and its determinants.

NHS Choices Live Well

For a wealth of practical information on healthier lifestyles visit.
Live Well hub

Association for Study of Obesity (ASO)

ASO supports a number of regional groups that provide opportunities between the different organisations working to prevent and treat obesity within localities.


Delivers weight management and health improvement programmes to individuals, families, local communities and within workplaces, and works to raise awareness, inspire action and treat the global problem of obesity.

Helping Overcome Obesity Problems (HOOP)

HOOP UK is a national charity providing support for those struggling with the issues surrounding weight management and obesity.