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NHS reforms: Warwick Medical School experts comment on addressing obesity

Reforms to the NHS and social care announced today aim to tackle health inequalities by addressing issues such as obesity. Experts from Warwick Medical School and the Warwick Obesity Network, which develops evidence-based policy and practitioner briefs supporting a new national strategy against obesity, comment:

Dr Petra Hanson of Warwick Medical School said: “It is not clear to me what exactly is meant by stripping the legislative bureaucracy and empowering the local leaders. Looking at the situation from the obesity treatment point of view, clinical obesity services have been suffering during the pandemic as the staff that normally works in them has been re-deployed and bariatric surgeries have been impacted, so in essence the care for patients with obesity declined due to less resources. Combined with more referrals than normal, we are faced with a case of a lot more patients and not more resources.

“What would be welcome is to hear from the Government how they will invest into obesity services, and whether the investment will be proportional to health inequalities in order to try to address this gap. The bottom line is that if we want to reform ways we prevent/treat obesity in the NHS, we have to also invest money into these services.”

Dr Paul Coleman from Warwick Medical School said: “The government’s increased focus on obesity, a leading cause of chronic illness, premature mortality, and reduced quality of life, is overdue and warmly welcomed. However, by addressing this via NHS reforms suggests that the government is continuing to focus on treatment rather than prevention. The causes of obesity are complex - but are associated with socio-economic factors such as being raised in more deprived areas, living in or close to the poverty line and reduced educational attainment during childhood. What is required is a holistic, joined-up approach that considers these societal causes of obesity through well-funded local public health teams and a holistic government approach with a commitment to ending contributing factors such as unemployment, childhood food poverty and a lack of suitable and affordable food in many neighbourhoods. However, we still have no clear guidance from the government about the future of public health in the UK, following the reforms announced by Matt Hancock last year, or any clear focus from the government on how to address the complex causes of obesity. We are unlikely to succeed if we naively believe that the NHS and a focus on prevention is the way to address obesity.”

11 February 2021


Peter Thorley
Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics)


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