By Melanie Leyshon
25% of adults in the UK are already obese and two-thirds are overweight. Worrying statistics, which, according to Professor David Haslam, National Obesity Forum chair and Healthy Food Guide expert, means we could be facing a ‘doomsday scenario’. At the start of National Obesity Awareness Week (13–19 Jan), David wants to see campaigns for obesity becoming as hard-hitting as those against smoking.
‘There’s a lot more we can be doing by way of earlier intervention and to encourage members of the public to take sensible steps to help themselves,’ says David. ‘But this goes hand in hand with government leadership and ensuring responsible food and drink manufacturing and retailing. We need more proactive engagement by healthcare professionals on weight management, more support and better signposting to services for people who are already obese, and more importance placed on what we drink and how it affects our health.’
To tackle obesity successfully, health experts believe all the elements of the condition must be addressed. One successful scheme has been trialled in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
The town’s weight management programme brought together health authorities and commercial enterprises such as WeightWatchers, with a focus on healthy eating and exercise. Its community approach encouraged overweight people to request a referral to the Rotherham Institute of Obesity from either their GP, nurse, pharmacist or dietitian, or to refer themselves.
Of the patients who completed the six-month weight-loss programme, 93% lost weight and 66% met or did better than their targets. Overall weight-loss results were up to 29% of the original starting weight.
‘It worked because once assessed, patients could see a weight management professional, dietitian, exercise physiologist or talking therapist, or whatever they needed,’ says David. There were three stages to the scheme: stage one identified people at primary care level; stage two was community based, where nutrition and lifestyle and exercise advice was given by trained staff; and stage three looked at specialist interventions, such as bariatric surgery. For children, this included residential weight management camps.
David believes the Rotherham approach is utterly cost effective and should be used across the country. ‘People are sitting in the wrong clinics. They’re in the cardiology clinic and the diabetes clinic or liver clinic, when really they should have started in the obesity clinic so that the problem could really be dealt with.’
‘If you rolled out the Rotherham programme everywhere, it would cost far less than the amount obesity is going to cost us in 25 years’ time, according to Government predictions,’ he says. The programme costs under £1m and if it were rolled out nationally, it would cost around £250m - a small fraction of the bill we will be faced with in 2050 if the obesity crisis continues at its current pace.’
For advice on tackling obesity, check out the National Obesity Awareness Week website www.noaw2014.org.uk/recipes - Healthy Food Guide has a week’s worth of recipes available for you to try.
For more everyday recipes - all 500 kcal or less - get a copy of Healthy Food Guide’s Make it Special 100 Speedy Suppers Recipe Collection (£3.99), out now at branches of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and WH Smith, or download the iPAD edition from iTunes.