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Obesity may bankrupt NHS

Rising obesity levels may bankrupt the NHS if levels of intervention are not increased, advises a British Medical Journal report

Rising obesity levels may bankrupt the NHS if levels of intervention are not increased, advises a British Medical Journal (BMJ) report.

Government experts have revealed that obesity treatments consume nine per cent of the NHS budget and warned this figure would rise as the number of obese adults rose from 20 per cent of the population to over 30 per cent by 2010.

Obesity levels have reached ìepidemic proportionsî globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as the number of overweight adults now tops one billion globally. Three hundred million are clinically obese, with the associated health diseases of stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression and cancer stretching the budgets of health services.

According to the UK department of health, the prevalence of obesity in children aged 11 or below increased from 9.9 per cent in 1995 to 13.7 per cent in 2003 (Health Survey for England, 1995-2003). Prevalence has trebled since the 1980s, and well over half of all adults are either overweight or obese - almost 24 million adults.

The leader of the BMJ report, Glasgow University's Professor Naveed Satar, stated: ìThe problem of rising prevalence in obesity may get much worse. Rates could climb still further, bankrupting the health system and leading soon to reductions in life expectancy.î

Satar added: ìWe need to think out of the box, nothing that has been looked at so far has worked. While individuals clearly have some responsibility for their health, the rest of society should also play more of a role.î

One proposal to tackle the problem of obesity is the provision of a helpline for people who bought larger size clothes. A number should be promoted on the labels of all clothes sold with a waist of more than 40 inches (102 cm) for men, 37 inches (94 cm) for boys, 35 inches (88 cm) for women and 31 inches (80 cm) for girls.

Other recommendations in the report included the following:

  • Funding obesity surgery for people with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40

  • Health check for school leavers to include waist and weight measurements

  • Taxing processed foods containing high sugar, salt and transfats

  • Ensuring sports facilities and parks are built near to housing developments

  • Permitting new urban road building only if bicycle lanes are included

  • Obesity prevention to become a core part of medical training

The British government published a Public Health White Paper in 2004, which promised to put obesity at the top of the health agenda, after the 2002 Wanless Report claimed that unless the nation's health was prioritised, NHS spending would increase by £30 billion ($58.9 billion) over the next 20 years.

30th September 2008

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