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.