January 19, 2014
UK Obesity: The State Of The Nation’s Waistline
While obesity rates in the developed world are a modern epidemic, it seems from reports we receive here in the UK that in America the problem is being brought under control and that obesity levels are stabilizing if not actually falling. It is a very different story over here in Great Britain however.
Studies in 2012 found that over a quarter of all UK adults were obese and that 41 percent of men and 33 percent of women were classed as overweight. But unless action is taken it looks like things are going to get a lot worse. Back in 2007 an influential study, the Foresight Report, predicted that by the middle of the twenty first century 60 percent of men, 50 percent of women, and 25 percent of children could be obese. The report’s findings were a big concern for a country already struggling to find ways to carry on funding or maintaining care levels in a growing National Health Service. Obesity places immense demands on the NHS and these predictions were a dire warning of bigger problems ahead.
But a new report, The State of the Nation’s Waistline, by the National Obesity Forum (NOF) claims that the projected rates in the Foresight Report may have seriously underestimated the problem. The Chairman of the NOF, Professor David Haslam, described the findings of the 2007 report as “a doomsday scenario” but the new projections are for far higher levels. The report states that “It is entirely reasonable to conclude that the determinations of the 2007 Foresight Report, while shocking at the time, may now underestimate the scale of the problem”.
Professor Haslam is calling for concerted action from government leadership, the public themselves, and “responsible food and drink manufacturing and retailing”. He goes on to say that there needs to be more of the kind of hard-hitting campaigns that have been aimed at reducing smoking and that “the time has long passed for national soul searching”. What is also needed, he says, is more pro-active engagement by healthcare professionals in tackling the issue with front line doctors raising the subject with patients who are already showing signs of obesity as well as pointing them towards services which can give help and support. One proposal which is likely to prove highly contentious is that General Practitioners should be awarded “quality outcome framework points” which would see extra payments to GPs for dealing with obesity problems and providing guidance. The report did recognize, however, that a GP often finds it difficult to raise the issue with patients due to a perceived sensitivity on the part of those who are obese. These patients already have to deal with the emotional problems and stigma that go with the territory and it is suggested that further training be given in this area for those doctors who see their patients on a regular basis.
The publication of The State of the Nation’s Waistline has led a lot of media commentary but has also prompted another body – the UK Health Forum – to release advance details of a forthcoming report which predicts slightly lower levels for obesity in 2050 but both reports agree that by that date, unless intervention is made and proves effective, around half the adult UK population will be clinically obese.
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