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Open Access Research article

Analysis of the UK recommendations on obesity based on a proposed implementation framework

Amudha S Poobalan1*, Lorna S Aucott1, Sheraz Ahmed2 and W Cairns S Smith1

Author Affiliations

1 Section of Population Health, Division of Applied Health Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Medical School, Polwarth Building, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

2 Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Aga Khan University Hospital, Stadium Road, Karachi 74200, Pakistan

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-17

Published: 15 January 2010

Abstract

Background

There is considerable expertise in the obesity field in identifying, appraising, and synthesising evidence to develop guidelines and recommendations for policy and practice. The recommendations, while based on evidence, are not formulated in a way that readily leads to implementation. This paper analyses the recent UK recommendations on obesity using a proposed implementation framework.

Methods

Two bibliographic databases (Medline and Embase) and various health related and government websites were systematically searched for obesity recommendations published between 1996 and 2007. All the documents published on recommendations for either prevention or treatment of obesity in the UK were assessed. A proposed implementation framework was developed for the purpose of this review. All the UK recommendations were critically appraised and results summarised according to the criteria used within the framework. Cross-country applicability of the proposed framework was assessed using the Swedish policy recommendations on obesity.

Results

Most recommendations on obesity while demonstrating their basis in evidence, fail to meet the implementation standards. They tend to be non-specific in identifying who is responsible for implementation and monitoring, and often no timescale is indicated. The costs of implementation are rarely estimated and those responsible for such funding are not specified. There are some notable exemptions to the general pattern emanating from more operational and locally based groups. The Swedish policy details 79 proposals with responsibility clearly identified and costs are presented for 20 of them. This policy satisfied most of the framework criteria but failed to give details on evaluation, monitoring and the timeframe for implementation.

Conclusions

Public health has developed skills in appraising evidence and formulating recommendations based on appropriate evidence but these are often not implemented. Different skills are required to translate these recommendations into actions. Public health clearly needs to develop the implementation skills to a level comparable to the ability to synthesise evidence.