06 Jun 2019


It's clear from the impact we have on our health and environment that behavioural change will be key to a better future for all. What is the scale of the obesity problem? What factors impact our behaviour? What ways can the food industry help? Experts from Cancer Research UK, Waitrose, Warwick Business School and Health Action Campaign contribute their insight into ways behaviour change can be encouraged.

The scale of the problem

Almost a third of children in England aged two to 15 are overweight or obese. This shocking statistic paints a very bleak picture of the future for many young people in the country, as obesity is increasingly linked to higher rates of disease and early mortality.

Karis Betts, Health Information Manager, Cancer Research UK says, "Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, and 6% of cancer cases are caused by being overweight or obese."

How can behaviour change help?

A vision of behaviour change making a positive impact can be seen in results from Leeds. Leeds has become the first UK city to report a drop in childhood obesity after introducing a new behavioural programme called Henry. Henry stands for Health, Exercise, Nutrition for the Really Young and focuses on empowering parents so that they can help their children make healthy choices. 

Henry’s chief executive, Kim Roberts, told The Guardian, “Authoritarian parenting is when children are told what to eat and what to do, such as being banned from leaving the table until they have eaten their sprouts,” said Roberts. “Permissive parenting is asking children what they want to do.

“But Henry encourages a third approach known as authoritative parenting, where parents make it clear they are in charge, but also respond to their children.”

Promoting this change of parenting, and giving parents the tools they need to promote healthy habits from a young age, including exercise and healthy eating, has shown to be truly effective in cutting child obesity in Leeds.

Can the food and drink industry help promote change?

The recent Table Talk Podcast 'Behavioural Change: A case of mind over matter?' brought together Ed Gardiner, Behaviour Design Lead at Warwick Business School; Jenny Rosborough, a Registered Nutritionist; Michael Beber, Director at Health Action Campaign; Karis Betts, Health Information Manager, Cancer Research UK and Moira Howie, Nutrition & Health Manager at Waitrose and Partners to talk about the ways that producers, retailers and nutritionists can help promote change and encourage healthy eating.