Government plans to tackle obesity unveiled

15 Oct 2011 09:46 AM

NICE is to support local authorities in developing ways to tackle the rising tide of obesity in England, as the government plans to slash five billion calories off the nation's daily diet.

The government's obesity strategy says that on average adults are exceeding their calorie intake by 10 per cent, and that people need to be more honest about what they eat and drink in order to achieve the goal of reducing levels of child and adult obesity by 2020.

England already has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe and some of the highest rates in the developed world. Over 60 per cent of adults and a third of 10 and 11 year olds are overweight or obese.

The strategy recommends that local authorities use their new commissioning powers and ring fenced public health budgets to make a difference in communities.

The government has identified a need for councils to be supported in their efforts to tackle obesity, and in particular by helping areas to address local factors that impact on obesity.

NICE will, therefore, develop new public health guidance on working with local communities to prevent obesity, due in November 2012.

A second piece of guidance on the best practice principles for adult and child weight management services will also be developed to help support effective commissioning of local weight management services.

NICE Quality Standards could also play a role in shaping obesity services. The National Quality Board - a group of representatives from health and social care who refer quality standard topics to NICE - is currently inviting views on a proposed standard on the treatment of obesity in adults and children.

Elsewhere, the strategy calls for the food and drinks industry to extend and intensify their efforts to help people make healthier choices through the Responsibility Deal.

There will also be a £14 million investment in the Change4Life programme to encourage people to eat healthily and increase levels of physical activity.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “We have to halt and then reverse the tide of obesity in this country. Government has a role to play, but it is clear that we cannot do this alone. We need to work in a broad partnership with local authorities, businesses, charities, health professionals and individuals.

“We have already seen how we can move further, faster through the Responsibility Deal and I am now challenging business to help us make even greater progress.

“Reducing the number of calories we consume is essential. It can happen if we continue action to reduce calories in everyday foods and drinks, and if all of us who are overweight take simple steps to reduce our calorie intake.

“If we collectively rise to the challenge we have set in the Call to Action, we can create an environment that helps people make informed, balanced choices about their health and reduce the burden of obesity.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, added: “Obesity is a leading cause of serious diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. We must get to grips with the problem now to save lives and money in the future.

“Most of us are eating or drinking more than we need to and are not active enough. Being overweight or obese is a direct consequence of eating more calories than we need. Increasing physical activity is a part of the equation, but reducing the amount of calories we consume is key.

“We all have a role to play, from businesses to local authorities, but as individuals we all need to take responsibility. This means thinking about what we eat and thinking about the number of calories in our diets to maintain a healthy weight.”

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre of Public Health Excellence at NICE, said: “It is clear that England is in the grip of an obesity epidemic and that urgent action is needed to stem the tide.

"As rates of obesity rise, so too does the number of cases of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This is placing a huge financial burden on the NHS, and the wider economy, at a time when budgets are at a premium.

“Our public health guidance can help to address the situation. We have already produced a suite of guidance to help the nation slim down.

“We look forward to producing the new guidance to help local communities develop services to tackle obesity in their areas.”