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Change4Life is a health initiative which, according to the Department of Health (DoH) website, aims to "improve children’s diets and levels of activity so reducing the threat to their future health and happiness. Our goal is to help every family in England eat well, move more and live longer".[1] In 2012 Change4Life were asked by the Department of Health to extend their work to include promoting alcohol awareness. [2]


The idea of the Change4Life initiative came out of the 2004 Government paper "Choosing Health", which discussed various health concerns such as smoking, drinking and obesity. The Government proposed a strategy to "raise awareness of the health risks of obesity, and the steps people can take through diet and physical activity to prevent obesity."

In the longer term the Government wished to see a "significant part of the strategy delivered through campaigns that are jointly funded by government and industry."[3]

Prior to the publication of Choosing Health, in May 2004 a briefing note[4] from a coalition of industry representatives (including the Advertising Association and Food and Drink Federation) proposed a campaign resembling Change4Life,"a government-led but joint multi-media information programme, based on consistent food and health messages agreed between government and other partners."

In March 2008 Peta Buscombe, on behalf of the above industry coalition, issued an Industry Food Campaign Update[5], received by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The update claims to have "been in contact with over 100 separate companies and organisations ... and have had an overwhelmingly positive response."

The Change4Life section of the Department of Health's website contains more detail on the initiative. However, the vast majority of this detail appears to involve the use of the Change4Life logo and marketing and branding issues. There does not appear to be any substance as to what the initiative actually is or how it differs from previous and current Department of Health anti-obesity measures. [6]

The secretary of state for health Alan Johnson made a written statement to the House of Commons on November 11 2008 which outlined the details on the Change4Life initiative. Johnson described the initiative as "a lifestyle revolution which will help families eat well, move more and live longer. Under the banner Change4Life, the Government are aiming to galvanise support from everyone in the country from grass-roots organisations to leading supermarkets and charities.".[7]


The bulk of the funding for the Change4Life initiative comes from a coalition of food retailers and manufacturers and media companies. A total of 33 companies, liaising with the Government through the Advertising Association's Business4Life coalition, have pledged to deliver a "media equivalent value" of £200 million of in-kind contribution.[8] The Advertising Association is a federation of trade bodies and organisations representing the advertising and promotional marketing industries. The Government has pledged £30 million towards the initiative although this is part of the £372 million pledged by the Department earlier this year to tackle obesity.[9]


On May 23 2008, it was announced that M&C Saatchi had won the advertising contract, worth £75 million, for Change4Life.[10]

The director of marketing within the Department of Health was Andrew Brent who had previously worked for Boots and Burger King. Brent left the DoH in September, after only five months, to join BSkyB as a group brand marketing director.BSkyB is one of the member organisations of Business4Life. During his time at the DoH Brent was in charge of hiring M&C Saatchi, direct marketing specialist EHS Brann and media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD. [11]


The PR contract for Change4Life went to Freud Communications in August 2008. The web of connections and influence that surrounds Matthew Freud and the world of celebrity, politics and corporate CEOs, brings into question the competition over the pitch for the contract. It has been reported that two other agencies pitching for the contract were not considered due to their fast food clients; though the Department of Health must be aware that Freud also have fast food clients.[12] On the books of Freud Communications are junk food manufacturers PepsiCo, Pizza Hut, KFC, Walkers and alcohol company Diageo.[13] UK Coalition government documents showed this work brought in monthly fees between £40,000 - 45,000 for May - September 2010 via Central Office of Information. Change4Life will run until at least March 2011, with the fees expected to remain in this range. [14]

Philip Gould, former key pollster and architect of New Labour is deputy chairman at Freud Communications. Gould also sits on PepsiCo's new nutritional advisory board with former Health Secretary Alan Milburn. PepsiCo is a client of Freud Communications and member of coalition Business4Life.[15]


There has been some discord within the DoH at the use of the private sector in the Change4Life initiative. When the Advertising Association (AA) initially announced its £200 million pledge of marketing support in July, a DoH spokesperson stated that the announcement had taken the department by surprise and that the AA had "jumped the gun". [16] Baroness Peta Buscombe, the then chief executive of the AA, replied by stating that: "I don't know why they are saying that. We have been planning the announcement with them for months." [17] Brent was quoted as playing down these differences and stated, "In any organisation you get differences of opinion. If you are working in a big company, these are expressed internally and don't get announced externally. In government, things get picked up and reported by the media." [18]


Criticism of the involvement of the business sector has also arisen. Sustain, the sustainable food and agriculture pressure group, raised concerns over the entry criteria for the companies involved in Business4Life. They wished to see a company's record on marketing to children and adoption of the 'traffic lights' nutritional labelling system as basic requirements for entry into the coalition. (The traffic lights system uses red, green or amber symbols to show whether a food meets nutritional criteria. It is overwhelmingly preferred by the public for its simplicity but avoided by the most large food companies and retailers, which prefer to give percentage figures of guideline daily amounts (GDA) – a system that requires a great deal of specialist nutritional knowledge to understand.) Sustain spokesperson Jeanette Longfield commented:

If you don't have any criteria for entry you completely debase the currency. Rich big companies have bullied the Government, and the Government is blinded by the cash, or at least the promise of cash or cash equivalent.[19]

Richard Watts, coordinator for the Children's Food Campaign, raised further concerns regarding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Watts stated that there was a "significant danger" of businesses merely bolting on the Change4Life logo without being required to give any additional social commitments despite being included in a high-profile Government-backed campaign. [20]

Criteria and Monitoring

In reply to these criticisms the DoH has stated that there were entry requirements and that monitoring of companies would be conducted. Companies would be required to publicly support the aims of the campaign; carry messaging around diet and activity; contribute to behavioural change; undertake incremental activity; and use the Change4Life branding in certain specified ways.[21]

In response to an FOI regarding the criteria by which companies in the Change4Life initiative would be monitored and the monitoring process itself the DoH stated

" (Request - Details of the criteria by which any company participating in the Change4Life initiative would have to adhere, the process by which companies would be monitored and what sanctions would be applied to any company no adhering to criteria)

Answers to your first three questions can all be found in the Change4Life Terms of Engagement... attached. [1]

(Request - Details of what effects such sanctions would have on funding from a company to the Change4Life initiative)

Such sanctions would have no impact on the funding of the campaign, as the campaign is not being funded or sponsored by partners.

(Request- Copies of the internal briefing documents that were the basis for setting up the Change4Life initiative)

Attached is the Healthy Weight Healthy Lives Marketing Plan. [2]". [22]

Industry complaints

Computer games industry news website MCV complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an advert under the Change4Life banner, created by Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK. The advert depicts a young boy holding a PlayStation controller, staring at a TV with the caption, “Risk an early death. Just do nothing”.

MCV complained that the advert was “unrepresentative of the positive effect video games have on the UK's youth”. The ASA claim 25 members of the public have also made complaints.[23]


Department of Health, B4L Commitment to C4L, FOI received 5 February 2009


  1. Department of Health Change4Life, Accessed December 4 2008
  2. Department of Health, 5th February 2012 Change4Life launches its first alcohol campaign accessed 24th February 2012
  3. Department of Health Choosing Health November 2004, Accessed December 30 2008
  4. Reply to FOI request received 2 April 2009
  5. Reply to FOI request from DCMS, received 2 April 2009
  6. Department of Health Change4Life,Accessed December 4 2008
  7. House of Commons Hansard Written Ministerial Statements November 11 2008, Accessed December 18 2008
  8. Whitehall pages Change4Life, Accessed December 2008
  9. Department of Health Healthy Weight,Healthy lives A Cross Government strategy for England,Accessed December 4 2008
  10. M & C Saatchi M&C Saatchi 75m DoH anti-obesity account, Accessed December 17 2008
  11. Marketing Week Pitfalls of public sector marketing, September 19 2008, Accessed December 17 2008
  12. PR Week Freud lands anti-obesity brief, 1 August 2008, accessed 5 March 2009
  13. Freud Communications website Our Clients, accessed 5 March 2009
  14. Matt Cartmell and David Woods,Government 'transparency' data reveals Whitehall spending on PR, PR Week UK, 25 November 2010, 6:00am, accessed 29 November 2010.
  15. John Harris Inside the court of London's golden couple, The Guardian, 13 November 2008, accessed 5 March 2009
  16. Marketing Week Public Concerns over Private interests August 1 2008, Accessed December 17 2008
  17. Marketing Week Pitfalls of public sector marketing, September 19 2008, Accessed December 17 2008
  18. Marketing Week Pitfalls of public sector marketing, September 19 2008, Accessed December 17 2008
  19. Just food Food industry at heart of new anti-obesity drive November 20 2008, Accessed December 30 2008
  20. Just food Food industry at heart of new anti-obesity drive November 20 2008, Accessed December 30 2008
  21. Just food Food industry at heart of new anti-obesity drive November 20 2008, Accessed December 30 2008
  22. Email correspondence between Department of Health and Mary Craig, January 21 - March 3 2009.
  23. Brand Republic Website Change4Life ad draws fire from computer games industry, Bowser, J, 9 March 2009, accessed 19 March 2009