NHS Boss Highlights the Impact of Obesity on Health

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Published: 18 Sep 2014      

NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens has raised concerns about the obesity levels in the UK, stating that the issue is costing the NHS billions of pounds per year and has become the new smoking in terms of negative impact on the sufferer's health and it's impact on the services offered by the NHS.

The comments come on the back of recent figures that show that one in five school children is now considered obese, with as many as one in four adults also considered to be overweight.

To be classed as obese a person must be above a 30 on the standardised body mass index (BMI) scale.

Mr Stevens made the comments while speaking to the Public Health England annual conference, where he stated "Obesity is the new smoking. It represents a slow-motion car crash in terms of avoidable illness and rising health care costs.

"If, as a nation, we keep piling on the pounds around the waistline, we'll be piling on the pounds in terms of future taxes needed just to keep the NHS afloat."

Obesity not only causes short term issues but can also lead to the development of longer term illnesses, such as diabetes, if the patient doesn't make a concerted effort to cut their weight down. These additional diseases and ailments serve to place further strain on the NHS and its resources.

The comments come in the run-up to the introduction of Mr Stevens new five-year plan for the NHS, in which it is speculated that there may be a push to provide more lifestyle intervention programmes and incentives to encourage patients to lose weight or otherwise cease actions that may lead to future illness. The overall hope is that this will reduce the need for surgical intervention in some cases, in addition to aiding the long term health of the patient.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for obesity and diabetes, added "Obesity is a significant and wide scale public health issue all age groups and an issue the NHS as a whole is dedicated to tackling.

"We are seeing huge increases in type two diabetes because of the rising rates of obesity, and we clearly need a concerted effort on the prevention, early diagnosis and management of diabetes to slow its significant impact not only on individual lives but also on the NHS."

Other proposals that are expected as part of the document include the possibility of providing local councils with more power over fast food and cigarette sales, allowing them to create regulations in regards to how they are advertised and sold, rather than abide by national regulations. However such a move would also raise concerns from residents regarding the council and NHS becoming too involved in the choices individuals make and there may be some trepidation over proposals for active intervention into the lifestyles of patients.

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