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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 00:33 GMT
UK urged to tackle obesity problem
Scales
Some women can manufacture fat more easily
Obesity has reached a point where it is claiming 30,000 lives annually in England and drastic action is needed to tackle the problem, the government has been warned.

Obesity drains 2.5bn from society each year and unless effective action is taken, one in five men and 25% of women could be obese by 2005, a Commons Public Accounts Committee report suggests.

It says there are wide variations across the country in how doctors deal with the issue, and health care provision is "patchy".

Obesity costs the NHS at least 0.5bn a year in patient care and 2bn to the wider economy, for example in sickness absence.


I find it truly shocking that obesity contributes to as many as 30,000 deaths a year

Edward Leigh, Public Accounts Committee
It also shortens a life by nine years on average.

The report says government bodies need to develop new integrated strategies to deal with the problem across several departments, to cover education, physical activity and healthy eating.

The committee recognises part of the answer lies in helping people avoid becoming overweight and then obese, as much as helping those who are already obese.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Edward Leigh said: "I find it truly shocking that obesity contributes to as many as 30,000 deaths a year and that its prevalence is increasing rapidly.

"There are worrying variations in the way this problem is tackled from access to school sports to the way in which GPs deal with patients.

"We need more effective responses from the NHS at all levels and all the government bodies involved must work together in a much more co-ordinated way."

Integrated approach

The committee recommends an integrated approach by those responsible for healthcare, education, transport, sport and recreation, and the production, retailing, labelling and marketing of food.

The report also believes the DoH should take a greater lead in co-ordinating cross-agency work to incorporate it into national and local strategies for health improvement.

Obese women
Obesity takes nine years off your life
Chair of the National Obesity Forum Dr Ian Campbell said the statistics were no great surprise.

He said: "We know that obesity is a major problem and many doctors are reluctant to invest time and energy into managing obesity.

"There are two reasons for this. Firstly, many doctors don't yet accept or understand that obesity is a serious disease which can be treated.

"Secondly, those of us who do want to do something about it find we are limited by a serious lack of resources from the health service."

The Association for the Study of Obesity believes the report sends a clear message, but changes cannot happen overnight.

The association's chairman Dr Andrew Hill said: "We as a nation cannot expect a quick fix for our national population problem."

The government is being urged to work towards providing better sports facilities in schools to ensure its target is met to provide children with two hours of physical exercise each week.

Statistics show most adults in England are overweight and one in five - around eight million - are obese.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Karen Allen
"Exercise is crucial"
The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"Obesity shortens life expectancy by an average of 9 years"
Medical Research Council's Susan Jebb
"It is a consequence of our lifestyle"
See also:

22 Mar 00 | Health
15 Feb 01 | Health
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