Obesogenic nation – when will we have a strategy with teeth?

Today’s report on weight-loss surgery is another warning to government on the social, economic and personal costs of obesity. It shows that about 5% of those having surgery are aged 25 years or under and 40% of them were ‘super-obese’, in other words they had a BMI of 50 or more. This is a shocking statistic that reflects the failure of everyone around that individual to provide support through their childhood into their early adult years.

And whilst on average people have lost 60% of their excess weight a year after surgery, obesitythumbnailunless the root causes of over-eating are tackled, some will lose little weight whilst others around them will become obese. It is perfectly possible to have surgery and continue to eat high calorie foods and drink excess alcohol resulting in little weight loss, if the very reasons for over-eating have not been properly addressed. Whilst a psychological assessment is always made before surgery, many people need significant amounts of ongoing counselling support which currently is not provided.

Our recent report Careless eating costs lives highlights the obesogenic environment in which we now live and that action at all levels – from the personal to government – is urgently needed.

Added to this, rising levels of malnutrition indicate that we are not eating as we should.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) in August, show the number of people admitted to English and Welsh hospitals rose dramatically – from 5,469 to 6,520 – in the past year alone. There was 19-percent increase in the number of UK citizens hospitalized for malnutrition over the past twelve months[1]. Over the last five years there was a 71 per cent increase in hospital admissions where malnutrition was a primary or secondary diagnosis, from 3,900 admissions in 2009-10 to 6,690 admissions in 2013-14.

Above all we have to get serious about prevention of obesity in the first place. A national strategy on nutrition, a mandatory Responsibility Deal, local government plans, concerted action in schools and less snacking by you and me are all required. We don’t have enough surgeons for all those eligible for weight-loss surgery anyway, and as the good doctor has always said, prevention is better than cure – for the individual, society and the economy.

[1] http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB14568

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About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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