NHS: ‘Government must tackle obesity to save our health service’

The World Obesity Atlas 2023, published this week, says 51% of the global population will be overweight by 2035 if trends continue.

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With the NHS facing severe strain and staff striking for better conditions and pay, we must look at what can be done to stop people needing healthcare in the first place.

According to hospital admissions data, 2,031 different diagnoses were recorded, with 19.6 million people treated, in England between November 2021 and October 2022.

Obesity alone was the 13th most common diagnosis and has chronic symptoms - but, importantly, obesity was a factor in over 40% of diagnoses - approximately eight million people.

NHS diagnoses

  • Number one on the list was hypertension. Causes include obesity, diabetes, a high salt diet, alcohol use and a sedentary lifestyle. A total of 5.6 million people were diagnosed with hypertension, meaning that almost 30% of those treated by the NHS had hypertension.
  • The fourth most common diagnosis was type 2 diabetes. This is mainly caused by being overweight.
  • The eighth most common diagnosis was chronic kidney disease. The main causes are obesity, diabetes, and smoking.
  • At 12 on the list was malignant neoplasms, which are caused primarily by obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol use.
  • Number 18 is heart failure. For every five-unit increase in body mass index (BMI), there is an almost 30% increase in developing heart failure.
  • The 25th most common diagnosis was arthrosis. The most common cause of this is being overweight.
  • At 27 on the list is diverticular disease of the intestine. The most common cause is not eating enough fibre.

World obesity

The data shows that obesity and diabetes (caused by obesity) are leading issues. Cases of diabetes have doubled in the last 15 years.

Diabetes UK predicts that the number of people diagnosed with diabetes will rise to 5.5 million by 2030.

The World Obesity Atlas 2023, published this week, predicts that 51% of the global population (four billion people) will be overweight by 2035 if current trends continue, including two billion people living with obesity. The World Obesity Federation forecasts that the global economic impact of overweight and obesity will reach $4.32 trillion annually by 2035 if prevention and treatment measures do not improve.

What can we do?

We need to focus on prevention of diet-related illnesses if we are going to have any hope at saving our NHS.

Currently health education is part of the curriculum, taught through relationships, sex and health education, but we need to increase education around nutrition in schools and make cooking compulsory at all secondary schools.

We need to tax processed foods. The tax on sugary drinks decreased obesity in children aged 10-11 by 10%. We need to treat processed food like cigarettes because the food industry is having an even greater impact on our health.

We need to make healthy food more affordable than unhealthy food. We need to subsidise organic regenerative farming and produce that is not factory made - seasonal food growing on our British farms.