Being overweight is now 'normal'

By Ian Dipple Thursday 24 January 2013 Updated: 29/01 10:18

BEING obese or overweight is now normal for adults in Worcestershire and is putting huge pressure on the county's health services.

The scale of the epidemic is costing the county’s NHS an estimated £80million a year treating obesity related ill-health and another £60million dealing with the consequences of excess weight.

A total of 115,900 adults are obese and another 162,433 are overweight – over half the adult population. One in four of the county’s children now start school obese or overweight increasing to a third by the time they reach Year 6.

Over 6,000 hospital admissions are due to obesity related conditions and the problem now causes 400 deaths a year across the county.

Children who have weight problems are more likely to be obese adults and it can lead to problems with the heart, breathing, diabetes, fertility and premature death.

Factors behind the rise include people becoming less active, poor diet and the growth in fast food outlets.

The scale of the epidemic has prompted a shift in approach in the county’s new obesity plan which was approved by the Worcestershire Health and Well-being board on Tuesday.

Dr Frances Howie, the county’s assistant director of public health, said currently they were failing to reach enough people.

In the last three years 7,444 adults have been referred to weight management services, just six per cent of all those classed as obese. Of those just 512 had achieved a ten per cent weight loss.

The new strategy will place the emphasis on individual responsibility. It will help people to improve their own and their families' diets by making sure they have support and information, including working with schools, nurseries and businesses, as well as increasing access to free activities such as walking and cycling. The possibility of using planning law to control the growth and placing of fast food businesses is also being considered.

"As a society we have become sedentary and if we all started burning off those calories, that is just as good a way in as looking at the food we eat,” Dr Howie added.

“It is really only the parents who have created an obese or overweight child starting school, it’s their responsibility.

"It does not have to be Olympic levels of physical activity but it can’t be sitting around for long hours of the day."

But concerns were raised new government guidelines being produced on the qualification criteria for bariatric surgery – a specialist weight loss procedure – could be too relaxed and swallow up funding.

Dr Jonathan Wells, chair of the Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG, said the figures were shocking.

"Bariatric surgery is just dealing with the problem at that end, the focus has to be on prevention, we can’t do bariatric surgery on 115,000 people. This is not just the job of CCGs, it is a problem for society, the government and all of us – CCGs don’t have any magic wands available."

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