UK Government invests in weight management to help prevent COVID-19 impact on those living with excess weight

On March 4th the UK Government announced £100 million in new funding to help support people in achieving a healthier weight. The funds will be made available to help combat the increasing high prevalence of excess weight in England and the burden it is placing on the health system, individuals and their families. 

The impact of excess weight on an individual’s health has been further highlighted by the disproportional impact of COVID-19 on those living with obesity. Public Health England’s research into Excess Weight and COVID-19 found that excess weight leads to an increased risk of a positive test, hospitalisation, advanced treatment including mechanical ventilation, intensive or critical care and even death.

The study also showed that excess weight is more prevalent in deprived communities, those aged between 55 and 74 years of age and in some Black, Asian and Middle Eastern (BAME) communities. Therefore highlighting a clear health inequality with these groups has led to a higher risk factor during COVID-19, in addition to the regular health impacts of excess weight including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a number of cancers. The impact of excess weight on COVID-19 cases is not surprising given the health conditions it can lead to and the overall reduction in life expectancy it causes.


“Losing weight is hard, but making small changes can make a big difference.”

“Being overweight increases the risk of becoming ill with COVID. If we all do our bit, we can reduce our own health risks – but also help take pressure off the NHS.”

“This funding will give extra support to people across the country who want to lose weight too.”

Health inequalities, such as the prevalence of excess weight among different communities, is a main factor that social prescribing aims to address. Through the provision of lifestyle-changing services, social prescribing helps address such health issues through non-medical intervention. Weight management services are the primary form of social prescription for obesity and excess weight, with further benefits linked to reducing and preventing diabetes and chest and heart issues. These services help individuals make long-term changes to their diets and physical activity to help them sustain an active and healthy lifestyle. 


Elemental customer, The Old Library Trust runs the SWEET Project (Safe, Wellbeing, Exercise & Eating Together), a programme for families worried about their children’s weight. The programme helps educate families about nutrition and exercise, while providing fun activities for them to take part in and become more active.  

“The SWEET Programme has been a huge success to date and the Elemental platform is already leading the way as an innovative solution designed to reduce health inequalities. Their already established functionality gives us the ability to provide a complete wraparound solution to members of the Creggan community and compliment the learning gained throughout their learning journey. Not only that, but Elemental’s platform allows us to drive person-centred care by giving anyone the ability to refer themselves in to local community activities and interventions.” George McGowan, Project Director, The Old Library Trust HLC

OLT HLC are also using Elemental Self Refer to allow community members to refer themselves into social and/or welfare support services instantly via the OLT website.


Weight management services are provided through the NHS and local authorities. The additional funding that will be provided to the NHS services will further help achieve the NHS Long Term Plan and the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme. Around one third of the new funding will be available to these existing NHS services, while the other two thirds will be made available to local authorities. £70 million will be allocated to weight management services, made available through both the NHS and local authorities, while the other £30 million will be allocated to initiatives that help individuals maintain a healthy weight. 

Part of the funding in local authorities will see Public Health England partner with Local Government Authorities and Association for Directors of Public Health to roll out the Adult Weight Management Services grant that will provide £30.5 million in funding for behavioural weight management services to local authorities throughout England, depending on the population size of the authority and the prevalence of obesity in the area.  

 £4.4 million is being set aside to pilot a behavioural weight management and long term health change programme for children and their families through the Child and Family Weight Management Services Grant. This will provide funding for 5 – 10 local authorities, who can apply to pilot the scheme


A key factor in the allocation of the new funding is the ability to measure the effectiveness and the performance of the programmes that are put in place. The results and data taken from these programmes will provide evidence for future funding. It is clear that measurements of an individual’s progress from the beginning, through the programme and at the end are required in order to do so. 

Elemental provides the tools required to measure the success of these programmes through our digital social prescribing platform.  Wellbeing assessments via measurement tools can be carried out over the phone, with baseline measurements stored against the client’s record. Throughout the programme, this can then provide a way to track and measure the ‘patient journey’ and progress, and enables social prescribing Link Workers and Programme Managers to track and measure the effectiveness of social prescriptions into weight management services. The system enables a database of activities to be added including physical exercise classes.


“It’s great to see the Government commit additional funding to tackle the health inequalities impacting our communities. Public Health England have done great work in assessing the impact of excess weight on those suffering with COVID-19, highlighting the need for additional resources. Many of our customers offer weight management and healthy living services as part of their social prescribing programmes and we know many others who would welcome support in the form of this additional funding for their community.” 

If you would like help completing your application for the Child and Family Weight Management Services Grant or find out more about how Elemental can help enhance your weight management programme, pop your details in the form below and we will be back in touch within 24 hours.

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