MPs call for action to trim £2bn cost of obesity

17 Jan 02
The Department of Health must take urgent action to combat obesity in England, the Commons' Public Accounts Committee said this week.

18 January 2002

In its report on measures needed to tackle the problem, the committee of MPs called for a joint approach between government departments, local authorities, the NHS, charities and the private sector.

But it insisted that the Department of Health should lead programmes to prevent people becoming overweight and help those who are already obese. Emphasis would be given to prevention in children.

Obesity, which is linked to 30,000 deaths each year, costs the NHS around £500m a year, while the cost to the wider economy – in sickness absence for example – is around £2bn.

If current trends continue, more than 20% of men and 25% of women could be obese by 2005.

The MPs said help offered by the NHS was patchy. GPs often did not regard patient weight management as part of their job. Those who did were frustrated by the lack of evidence on the worth of diets, drugs, surgery and 'exercise on prescription' schemes.

PAC chair Edward Leigh called on the department to ensure local health improvement programmes included action on weight loss and for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to produce more guidance on anti-obesity treatments.

'There are worrying variations in the way this problem is tackled,' he said. 'We need more effective responses from the NHS at all levels and all government bodies involved must work together in a much more co-ordinated way.'


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