Tackling the obesity crisis in the UK

No matter the cause, the current obesity epidemic is a problem and must be addressed urgently. The social, economic and psychological impact is profound and includes loss of self-esteem, absence from work, incapacity and many other, health-related issues. A 2003 survey by the Department of Health and the Scottish Executive showed that, in the UK more than one in five people are clinically obese with morbid obesity being twice as common in women, at around 3% compared to men. More recent findings show that obesity is on the incease. The number of obese children has tripled over the past twenty years. At least 10% of six year olds and 17% of fifteen year olds are now clinically obese. Obesity now carries a higher risk of advanced liver disease such as cirrhosis than alcohol, which was previously thought to be the only risk factor.

The BMI (Body Mass Index) is the standard method used to calculate whether a person’s weight falls within acceptable or normal limits for height. Conventional treatment strategies include drug intervention and surgery. Conventional drugs used to treat obesity fall into 3 main groups: those that reduce energy intake by acting like appetite suppressants; those that alter fat metabolism and therefore fat absorption; and those that increase metabolism or thermogenesis. Surgical intervention is now increasingly necessary given the health risks of some anti-obesity drugs and the extent of the obesity. Newer procedures within bariatric surgery such as gastric banding, gastric bypass, liposuction and tummy tucks are unfortunately being increasingly used for cosmetic purposes.

Natural weight loss strategies include herbal formulas, natural metabolic stimulants, circulatory stimulants, herbal laxatives, herbal diuretics and natural appetite suppressants. Much of the recent focus is on diet and exercise as part of a preventative measure as well as encouraging the adoption of healtier lifestyles as a major cost-cutting NHS savings drive. Part of the solution involves education, information, policy, legislation as well as practical help and support to those who desperately need it.

Read the full article here: Tackling Childhood Obesity

Primary Health Care 2008; 18(8): 25-30rcnpublishing

Primary Health Care Journal is a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) publication.