A weighty problem – the Government’s latest obesity strategy

Press Release

With weight constantly linked to the severity of Covid-19 during the pandemic, Nursing in Practice’s Summer edition looks at whether the Government’s latest obesity strategy will be effective.

NIP 120 Issue

The strategy includes plans to print calorie content on restaurant menus and ban the advertising of foods high in fat, sugar or salt on television and online in England before 9pm from April next year.

In March this year, the Government’s latest obesity strategy was allocating £100m to help with its plans, with money expected to be spent on weight management services and initiatives to help people lose weight.

The Tackling obesity policy paper, published by the Department of Health and Social Care in July last year, notes: ‘There is now consistent evidence that people who are overweight or living with obesity who contract coronavirus are more likely to be admitted to hospital, to an intensive care unit and, sadly to die from Covid-19 compared to those of a healthy body weight status.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, talking about having Covid-19 himself last year, said the severity of his illness – he was admitted to intensive care – was because he was ‘too fat’.

But this is the 14th such Government strategy and high rates obesity in England show none of these have so far been consistently successful.

According to NHS data, in 2018 63% of adults in England were above a healthy weight and one in three children leave primary school being overweight or obese. This is calculated to cost the NHS £6bn a year.

To be successful, our articles highlights, this latest strategy must recognise and tackle inequalities across the country.

‘Obesity prevalence is highest amongst the most deprived groups in society,’ the obesity paper states. ‘Children in the most deprived parts of the country are more than twice as likely to be obese as their peers living in the richest areas.’

GP Matthew Capehorn tells us about an innovative initiative he set up in Rotherham in 2009 – the Rotherham Institute for Obesity, which helped people lose a cumulative 34 tons over three years. He suggests the Government’s strategy could be successful if it targets a lot of the money to weight management services ‘preferably in a primary care setting’.

Toni Jenkins, an obesity nurse specialist, agrees primary care has a central role to play in tackling weight issues. ‘There should be training funded by the Government for all nurses in general practice’, she urges.