Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Obesity: A waddling time bomb.

No, I'm not going to abuse fat people, this is more about the general state of our country's health as more and more children and adults are becoming obese. Everyone complains when the NHS can't pay for the latest cancer drug, or they have to wait a few weeks for an operation, but why can't it afford these things? Because so much money has to be ploughed into schemes and treatments for people who have illnesses of their own making; smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, lack of exercise. No-ones perfect, very few live a completely healthy lifestyle, but when it starts affecting your health, surely then you know there's a problem.

There was something written on BBC not long ago by a specialist who looked at how much money it would actually cost to solve the problem. Obesity leads to a whole host of other problems which are costly and time-consuming work, time and money which could be used elsewhere. Just to treat the morbidly obese (which is around 2% of the population!) it would cost £9.1bn for the initial surgeries, followed by another £1.6bn over the next 10 years for the follow-up treatment. Even that doesn't include any cosmetic surgery to get rid of excess skin after weight loss or potential problems that could come up after. And then there's the other 60% of people who could do with losing weight because they're already overweight or obese. This problem has grown spectacularly and along with the ageing population is going to put a massive strain on health services over the next few decades. All these overweight people, without treatment, will take up time and money with the various illnesses that being overweight will lead to.

People need to stop talking about a future problem and admit that we have an epidemic already. We can't just focus on prevention, we blew our chance and now not only do we need prevention but we need a cure. There needs to be a  more organised system whereby GP's and other doctors have a clearly identifiable scheme that can help people lose weight and keep it off. They also need to look at which groups will most benefit from surgery and get it done where it would be cost efficient. It seems cold to keep talking about money, but its naive to pretend it's not a major factor when the NHS budget is already stretched.

If we want to stop the bullying of children and the later health problems they will get, we need to face up to this and come up with a serious solution as a country. Rant over.

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