FAT people need to lose weight rather than expecting the NHS to wave ‘a magic wand’ to make them slim, say health chiefs.
Half of people in Worcestershire are now either obese or overweight but health strategists say the focus must be stopping them getting fat in the first place, not relying on bariatric surgery later on.
Bosses also said people need to take more responsibility for their own weight when they discussed the obesity epidemic at a meeting of the Worcestershire Health and Wellbeing Board.
The board is a group of senior GPs, managers and councillors who set the strategy for the county’s health.
Dr Jonathan Wells, chairman of the Redditch and Bromsgrove clinical commissioning group (CCG), described the figures as ‘shocking’.
He said: “Bariatric surgery is just dealing with the problem at the end.
“We have really got to work on prevention to stop our children getting this problem in the future.”
He said one of the questions asked of the new clinical commissioning groups was what they were doing about preventing obesity.
He said: “It’s not just the job of the CCG. This is a social and generational problem. It’s a problem for us all.
“Prevention is the crucial thing for future generations. The CCGs don’t have any magic wands available I’m afraid.”
Figures show that 115,990 people in Worcestershire are obese while only 512 of those have achieved 10 per cent weight loss.
Figures show that 81 obese children completed a weight management programme between May 2010 and March 2012, reducing their body mass index by 1.5 per cent and losing an average 2.6cm off the circumference of their waist.
However, this equates to just 0.7 per cent of the total number of obese five to 14-year-olds of which there are 20,779 in the county. A quarter of children start school overweight or obese and a third are in these categories by year six.
Carol Thompson, a board member on HealthWatch, said: “It’s totally scary and I think people need to be scared and see what the affects can be. We can only do so much.”
Dr Frances Howie, assistant director of public health, said: “We cannot spend our resources chasing around the county for fat individuals because the numbers have spiralled out of control.
“Nobody other than the parents of this child has created an obese four-year-old who’s going into school.
“This is now the norm – most people out there are overweight or obese. It really is everybody’s business.”
The Worcestershire Obesity Plan (2013-16) was approved at the meeting and an obesity action group will now develop operational aspects of the plan.
The first aim of the plan is to ‘empower individuals to take greater responsibility for their own and their family’s diet and physical activity’.
Ways to tackle the problem include social marketing campaigns, prioritising ‘active travel’ and working with schools, nursing homes and work canteens to improve the nutritional content of food.
Obesity is one of the main causes of avoidable ill-health in Worcestershire, costing the local NHS an estimated £80 million per year and an additional £60 million to the wider economy.
Those living in the most deprived communities and with lower education levels are more likely to have multiple unhealthy behaviours, including poor diet, low physical activity levels, smoking and to drink more alcohol.
Overweight adults are more likely to suffer circulatory disease, type two diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, cancers and respiratory disorders.
In total an estimated 115,900 adults are obese, representing a quarter of the adult population in Worcestershire.
A further 162,433 adults are overweight. Overweight or obese adults make up half the adult population. By 2050, unless the trend changes, 60 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women in the UK will be obese.
There are an estimated 338 fast food outlets across Worcestershire. Wyre Forest has the greatest concentration - 77.4 per 100,000 of population compared with 38.5 per 100,000 in Malvern Hills.
Between 2009 and 2012 7,444 adults were referred to weight management services but this represented just six per cent of the total obese population.
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