Discover how we developed a plan for a national Healthy Eating Strategy in Abu Dhabi, in partnership with CSM Sport agency.

The Problem

Obesity is a serious challenge in Abu Dhabi. Currently 66% of men and 60% of women are classified as being either overweight or obese - double the world average - while 32% of school students are also classed as being obese or overweight. At present 19% of the population has diabetes and this is forecast to double by 2030, while 90% of residents are estimated to be at risk of cardiovascular disease. 

What We Did

Identifying at-risk groups

Using a range of local data sources, and through extensive stakeholder consultation, we identified a number of segments of the Emirati population considered to be particularly at risk from rising obesity:

  • Semi-professionals: who lack the time, money and knowledge to adopt healthier lifestyles.
  • Affluent families: who over-indulge in unhealthy foods, paricularly as they frequently dine out in restaurants.
  • Conventionalists: traditional families who do not yet understand the need to change their lifestyles to reduce their risk of obesity.

Generating insight

We carried out detailed face-to-face research with each of the three identified groups. The objective of this research was to develop a deep understanding on a range of issues, including:

  • Their current eating, cooking and shopping behaviours.
  • Their knowledge and attitudes to "healthy diets".
  • The barriers and motivations that influence their decision to eat healthily.
  • The extent to which others influence their current behaviours.
  • The areas where social marketing interventions could be targeted.

Developing interventions

Using the four intervention domains of Inform, Support, Design and Control we developed a range of interventions, tailored for each segment, to encourage them to adopt healthier eating behaviours. These included:

  • Fridge stickers to show people what a healthy diet looks like.
  • Providing supermarket personal shoppers to help people make healthier choices.
  • Redesigning school canteens and menus to help students make healthier dietary choices.

All the interventions were pre-tesed with the targetted segments and poorly received ones discarded. 


What We Achieved

The Healthy Eating Strategy has been well received by the client DAMAN - the health insurer provider for the Emirate - as it is fully evidence-based, has been compiled in close consultation with relevant stakeholders, and is built on a number of healthy eating initiatives already underway in Abu Dhabi.

As part of the strategy, we have provided the client with a detailed plan on how it can be further developed and implemented. This plans shows that the implementation of a Healthy Eating Strategy - involving up to 50,000 Emirati families - is a complex task and will require considerable stakeholder and partnership support to achieve its objectives.

At present, Daman are currently considering their next steps, with the objective of moving to the implementation phase during 2018.