Change4Life: Government Movement to Reduce Childhood Obesity
Change4Life, a public health program in England, effective since January of 2009 and organized by the Department of Health is the country's first national social marketing campaign to reduce obesity (NHS, 2009, pp. 13). More specifically aimed at families with children under twelve years old, the initiative seeks to reduce childhood obesity and foster healthy and happy children, who in turn grown into happy and healthy adults. In recent years, a rise in obesity numbers and a decrease in physical activity led the Change4Life campaign to challenge the behaviors of English families that lead to excess weight gain (Change4Life, 2009, pp.1). In hoping to eliminate obesity from the earliest stages of life, Change4Life works to not only adjust citizen's weight, but their overall health and well-being through education and easily-accessible information. In essence, this campaign aims to encourage people to lead overall healthier lives, using the slogan "eat well, move more, live longer," which is a message strong enough to have gained over a million individuals committing to the program since its inception over three years ago (NHS, 2012, pp.1).
Aims and Objectives
As mentioned previously, the Change4Life policy was aimed at parents and children to foster healthy living from childhood all the way into adulthood. Change4Life's aim is generally to inspire a "broad collection of people," including the NHS, local authorities, businesses, charities, schools, families, community leaders, and in fact, anyone working with families and individuals -- to play a part in improving the nation's health and well-being by encouraging everyone to eat well, move more and live longer (NHS, 2009, pp.1).
Being introduced in a manner that did not single out one particular group, but served to enhance the lives and well-being of the entire English population, Change4Life was not only introduced in a manner that targeted the entire population, but intended to achieve a bettering of this population from the get-go, regardless of any obstacles that stood in the way.
Proposed and carried out by the Department of Health and its attributed agencies, Change4Life was founded after seeing a need for such a program amongst the English population and drawing inspiration from other successful behavior change campaigns set in place in other countries (NSMC, 2011, pp.1). In developing the program, the Department of Health and its sponsors weighed a variety of program options in order to come to the eventual Change4Life program. While other programs could focus on certain aspects of health and well-being such as diet, exercise, education, etc., Change4Life was set in motion to become a program that is all-encompassing.
In the initial planning stages of the program, it became clear that more individualized, single-mission programs would not serve the country as well as one such as Change4Life. In viewing the status of the country in 2009, it was understood that initiatives focusing on food or exercise along would simply not do. Dr. Thomas Kelly of the Bow Group's Health and Education Policy Committee said, "In order to tackle the obesity epidemic facing Britain, it is clear we must empower individuals to . . . achieve behavioral change on a scale not witnessed before" (The Bow Group, 2009, pp.1).
Before the implementation of Change4Life into English society, the Department of Health and its supporters worked for months to garner support from sponsors, businesses and the public as well as working on a "three-year marketing strategy to drive, coax, encourage and support people through each stage of the behavior change journey" (NSMC, 2011, pp.1). Additionally, the UK government set into motion advisory committees on obesity to truly understand the problem that existed within the country, only to disband these groups after the planning stages were entirely over. This expert group, which was present in past health initiatives within the country, drew significantly from past experience and empirical research to support the development and delivery of the Change4Life program, among other lesser-known initiatives (Wise, 2011, pp. 1). Perhaps one of the most successful aspects of the Change4Life program and its policy process is the slow and steady manner in which it was founded, introduced to the public, and now implemented. Rather than bombarding individuals with scads of information, Change4Life was designed to be a process, which as many individuals know, parallels the process…