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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 04:01 GMT 05:01 UK
Scots obesity bill 'tops 170m'
Overweight man in pub
Obesity can be as costly as smoking
Obesity is costing the NHS in Scotland as much as smoking, according to a new report.

The study by experts at Glasgow University said 171m was being spent on the treatment of obesity and related illnesses each year.

The research into the cost burden of the disease also found that the bill for treating obese patients in Scotland is considerably higher than in England.

About 21% of adult Scots - more than 850,000 people - are now classified as obese and have a higher risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes, disability and some cancers.

It has already been predicted that the death toll from obesity will top that from smoking in the next 10-15 years.

Dr Andrew Walker, of the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics at the University of Glasgow, carried out the study.

850,000 Scots classified obese
373,400 have secondary disease
98% of 170m costs spent treating secondary diseases

He believes that the treatment of adult obesity is now a major health challenge for Scotland.

Dr Walker said: "The treatment of obesity itself accounts for a tiny percentage of the overall cost of the disease.

"It is estimated that 373,484 Scots have a secondary disease, such as type two diabetes, high blood pressure, angina or certain cancers, which can be attributable to obesity.

"It is only when the cost of treating and caring for these diseases is examined, that the real cost of obesity to the Scottish NHS becomes clear.

"Overall the strongest conclusion is that obesity is a disease with important cost consequences that are comparable to recognised threats to health such as smoking."

Professor Iain Broom, consultant in metabolic medicine at Grampian University Hospitals NHS Trust, said obesity needs to be addressed not as a lifestyle issue, but as a complex medical condition.

For the first time we have an accurate picture of the scale of the challenge faced by Scotland's dedicated healthcare professionals
Dr Ian Campbell
National Obesity Forum

He said: "What Scotland needs is a radical programme to tackle this serious modern health issue.

"The programme needs to include firm targets, structured care, health promotion, disease prevention and collaboration between government departments."

The report has been welcomed the National Obesity Forum, an organisation that helps doctors in the fight against obesity.

Chairman Dr Ian Campbell said: "This report demonstrates the importance of weight management not only for the patient, but also for the healthcare system as a whole.

"For the first time we have an accurate picture of the scale of the challenge faced by Scotland's dedicated healthcare professionals."

Dr Walker's figures, compiled from Scottish population, treatment rates and costs, are based on an earlier study from the National Audit Office (NAO) on obesity in England.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "We know that for too long Scotland has had the reputation as a nation of poor health.

"However Scotland is not unique, growth in obesity is an issue facing most countries. That is why we are stepping up the attack on bad diet and inactivity."

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