Nearly two thirds of adults in Essex are overweight or obese

PUBLISHED: 13:31 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 13:32 21 August 2020

Some healthy vegetables grown in planters. Picture: contributed

Some healthy vegetables grown in planters. Picture: contributed

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In its new report, Social Care and Obesity, the Local Government Association is urging doctors and health professionals to have an honest conversation about people’s weight.

Nealy two thirds of adults in Essex are overweight or obese, figures have revealed.

Public Health England figures show 63 per cent of adults in the county were classed in the two categories in 2018-19, the latest period for which data is available.

This was the same as the average across the East of England – but it was just above the England average of 62 per cent.

Separate figures show that 22 per cent of children aged four to five-years-old in Essex were overweight or obese in the 2018-19 academic year.

Nationally up to a third of adults are predicted to be obese by 2024.

But the Local Government Association has said a fear of offence and a lack of referral services for severely obese people sees some health practitioners only record a person’s condition, such as diabetes or stroke, in data and not obesity or Body Mass Index (BMI), even though that is often the underlying issue.

They add that practitioners also often compensate for the loss of mobility in obese clients with more equipment, which means they move about even less and their problems are compounded, increasing their likely long-term reliance on social care services.

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In its new report, Social Care and Obesity, the LGA is urging doctors and health professionals to have an honest conversation about people’s weight when they consider it to be the underlying cause of a condition and for weight to be routinely recorded in data collection to help inform prevention work and ensure that services are tailored to population need.

It says this “frank approach” has become more urgent considering that severe obesity rates have soared seven-fold for men and almost trebled for women since the mid-90s, and in light of widening health inequalities, which have seen obesity rates increase most among those from more deprived backgrounds, and among different ethnic groups.

Obesity is linked to diseases including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, some cancers, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and musculoskeletal conditions. This affects people’s ability to live independently, leading to increased benefit costs and demand for social care, which is already under significant stress.

Research shows that the yearly cost of council funded community-based social care for a severely obese person is nearly double the cost of a person with a healthy BMI, which equates to an extra £423,000 in annual excess social care costs for a typical council. Further research shows that obese people are 25 per cent more likely to be using some form of long-term care in two years’ time, than those with a healthy BMI.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Obesity is a ticking timebomb for the nation’s health and is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, but its impact on adult social care is largely overlooked.

“Unless we tackle the stigma and serious challenge of obesity, the costly and debilitating major health conditions it causes could bankrupt adult social care and NHS services.

“Health professionals need to start having frank conversations about their people’s weight if it could be an underlying cause of their condition and routinely record it; individuals need to take responsibility for their own decisions and government needs to support them to do so.

“Obesity needs to be tackled head-on, otherwise people’s health will continue to suffer, health inequalities associated with obesity will remain and the economic and social costs will increase to unsustainable levels.”

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “We recognise the issues that being overweight and obesity can cause, not only in terms of the effect that it has on an individual’s health, but also the wider effect on services that local authorities provide.

“In Essex, we commission an award-winning weight management programme – My Weight Matters – that has helped thousands of people across the county to successfully lose weight and improve their quality of life. More information about the My Weight Matters programme and how to access it can be found at acemyweightmatters.org/home.”


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