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Wednesday, September 9, 1998 Published at 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK


Health

Britain is getting fitter and fatter

In the US, obesity is an epidemic. Is the UK heading the same way?

People in the UK are living longer, but getting fatter, according to the Chief Medical Officer's annual report.

Big falls in the number of people under 65 dying from heart disease and lung and breast cancer in the last seven years have helped improved Britain's health, says the report.

Deaths from lung and breast cancer dropped by over 15% and those for coronary heart disease by 20% between 1991 and 1997.

Life expectancy has increased, but the number of people classed as obese and the number of children smokers is on the rise.

Average life expectation is now just under 75 years old for men, compared with around 73 and a half years in 1991, and almost 80 for women, compared with around 79 in 1991.

Suicide and Aids

However, people aged between 15 and 44, particularly men, are more likely to die than they were in the mid-1980s.

This is put down to the rise in male suicide rates, which has levelled off, and deaths from Aids.

Infant mortality has continued to fall and is now at an all-time low.

But there are some worrying trends: obesity is up and the number of children smokers are rising.

Seventeen per cent of British women aged between 16 and 64 are now classed as obese, a rise of 2% in just five years.

Sixteen per cent of men were found to be obese in 1996, compared with 13% in 1991/2.

At least 3% more children between the ages of 11 and 15 - 13% - now smoke than in 1990.

Environment

Sir Kenneth's report highlights the impact of the environment on health, including pollution and housing and, on a global level, climate change.

He also focuses on the importance of screening for health, but says health officials should take into account "not only the benefits but the potential adverse effects of the programme".

Screening programmes are being extended into new areas, for example, pilot studies are being conducted into screening for colorectal cancer and chlamydia.

And research is being carried out into whether it may be possible to screen for autism. This will be published later this year.

Diabetes

Sir Kenneth also calls for more effective treatment of diabetes mellitus, the leading cause of renal failure and blindness among people under the age of 65.

He also highlighted progress on areas outlined in his 1997 report.

He said public health targets would be outlined in the White Paper on public health to be published later this year.

A publicity campaign is expected in the new year on the health impact of domestic violence.

And in June 1999 the UK is to host a World Health Organisation conference on the environment and health.



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