National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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Tackle obesity through a 'community-wide'approach

Obesity should be tackled by encouraging different organisations to work together through a 'community-wide'approach, according to latest guidance from NICE.

The UK is facing an obesity crisis, with prevalence rising among both adults and children

In England in 2010, 26 per cent of adults and 16 per cent of children between the ages of 2 and 15 were obese.

By 2050, it is expected that more than half the adult population in England and a quarter of children will be obese.

The rising levels have implications for the NHS, as obesity increases the risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and reduces life expectancy by an average of 9 years.

It also has long-term implications on resources, with estimates suggesting overweight and obesity now costs the NHS £5.1 billion per year, and could rise by an additional £1.9 billion per year if current trends continue.

To help tackle the problem, NICE has published a new pathway which sets out how local communities, with support from local organisations and networks can prevent overweight and obesity.

The recommendations are aimed at local policy makers, commissioners, managers, practitioners and other professionals across all sectors of the local community.

NICE recommends integrating activities to tackle obesity within joint health and wellbeing and regeneration and environmental strategies.

Action should be aligned with other disease-specific prevention and health improvement strategies, such as initiatives to prevent type 2 diabetes, and those promoting nutrition and preventing harmful drinking.

NICE says public health teams should identify and work with obesity 'champions'. These are people who have a particular interest or role in preventing obesity in local authority and NHS strategy groups.

Furthermore, public health coordinators, with the support from directors of public health, should establish methods for involving business and social enterprises in the implementation of a local obesity strategy.

Businesses and social enterprises such as caterers, leisure providers and weight management groups should consider developing local activities based on national activities to achieve a local obesity strategy.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE, said: "The aim of this new guidance is to help tackle obesity using a 'community-wide' approach, by encouraging different organisations including local government, community groups and networks to take action and work together to plan and implement their own local strategies to prevent obesity in their community.

"Ultimately, it is up to individuals to maintain a healthy weight, but there are many community-wide factors that can help them to do this, from the built environment to the language that people use to talk about the issue."

Esther Trenchard-Mabere, Associate Director of Public Health/Consultant in Public Health, NHS Tower Hamlets and guidance developer, added: "NICE has already produced a range of guidance on the prevention and management obesity for those working in public health to utilise.

"What this new guidance contributes is a clear framework for local organisations to work together to put this existing NICE guidance into practice.

"The recommendations focus on an overarching approach to obesity in local communities, and emphasise the importance of integrating obesity with other local initiatives, such as those to prevent type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease and broader regeneration, mental health and environmental strategies."

NICE has produced a costing report and a costing template to help put this guidance into practice.

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