MPs Disapprove of NHS Approach to Obesity

Wednesday 25th March, 2015

MPs have said the fact that England’s NHS spends more money on bariatric surgery than measures to prevent obesity is inexplicable.

Health workers should be using every opportunity to deal with the issue, according to a report from the Health Select Committee.

MPs have also called for critical steps so people can understand the wider health benefits of physical exercise.

According to the government, the Change4Life programme provides extensive advice on exercising and healthy eating, free of charge.

However, the MPs dispute that the NHS and local and national government need to do more to prevent obesity related issues. This could include directives on what goes into our food, a ban on advertising sugary drinks to children, and more help for those at risk of diabetes and obesity, so that bariatric surgery is not required.

The report states that the committee finds it unacceptable and inexplicable that the NHS now spends more money on bariatric surgery for the obese than on a national roll-out of thorough lifestyle intervention schemes that were originally shown to prevent diabetes and cut obesity more than ten years ago.

The huge health benefits of physical activity are emphasised in the report. The MPs refer to recent studies which found that walking for 20 minutes a day would have a greater positive impact than not being obese for most inactive people.

They feel that the importance of physical activity for the whole population, regardless of health, weight, gender, age or other factors must be clearly expressed and understood.

Inequalities in rates of physical exercise were also highlighted in the report. This referred to the disparity between males and females in particular.

Only 16 percent of girls aged 5 to 16 achieve the recommended levels of physical exercise, compared with 21 percent of boys, according to official figures. Around 32 percent of women meet the recommended amount of activity, whereas the official figure for men is 43 percent.

The report suggests a “fear of judgement” which deters some women from exercising. Julie Creffield, a witness to the committee, described the ordeal. She said that some women told her they run on a treadmill in their own shed because they don’t want to be seen exercising in public. She feels that this is part of the problem, as we don’t see many overweight women exercising in public and this causes other women to feel that they shouldn’t exercise.

The Department of Health for England released a statement saying a lot of progress has been made in an attempt to tackle the issues the MPs have raised. Their Change4Life campaign has been providing extensive free advice on exercise and healthy eating, and almost 2 million more people now regularly play sport compared to a decade ago. The department have worked with the food industry to cut salt, fat and calories in food, and have given local authorities £8.2 billion to tackle obesity and other public health problems.