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JAN 28/2015

Obesitys impact on the healthcare system

Those working in the healthcare industry, from nurses to surgeons, have seen the impact of obesity on the nation. With a growing number of people being considered overweight or obese, it is likely that this effect on the health service will also expand in the coming years.

With so many men and women in the UK being overweight or obese, it is putting pressure on the NHS and staff, as well as the individuals' health and quality of life. Being outside of the recommended weight range puts people at a higher risk of developing problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. However, as well as these issues, there is also a greater chance that obese people will suffer from problems with their back, neck or joints because of their weight.

Obesity can be a dangerous downwards spiral that can lead to many other issues, both mental and physical, which put a greater strain on the resources of the health service.

Financial drain

The proportion of the UK's population considered to be obese is growing rapidly, with levels being three times higher than those recorded in 2006/07. As an indication of the impact it is having on the NHS, this has resulted in more than 11,700 inpatient admissions to hospitals in England during a single year.

Between 1993 and 2011, the number of obese people in the UK nearly doubled, with the figures rising from 13 per cent to 24 per cent for men and from 16 per cent to 26 per cent for women. The amount of children being considered obese is also growing, according to the latest figures, with three in ten children between two and 15 years old being overweight or obese in 2011.

Figures suggest that the cost of this to the UK's economy is almost £16 billion (over one per cent of gross domestic product), which could rise to just under £50 billion in 2050 if the number of people classed as obese grows in line with forecasts by the Department of Health.

Heightened risk of diseases

If more isn't done to address the issue of obesity in the UK, this could mean millions of people are at risk of developing a wide range of conditions from diabetes to heart disease, which is the biggest cause of death across the nation. Obesity can lead to a person being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, which means they have diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as being overweight. Although all of these factors are dangerous for a person's health alone, when combined it puts them at a significantly higher risk of suffering from serious health problems in the future. 

It is estimated that a quarter of all adults in the UK now have metabolic syndrome, putting them at a greater risk of experiencing heart disease, stroke and other conditions affecting blood vessels.

Cancer 

Recent studies have provided further evidence that being obese puts a person at a greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer. Although treatment has vastly improved in recent years, having cancer can still be life threatening and significantly change a person's quality of life.

Research published in the Lancet Oncology found that excess body weight was responsible for nearly half a million new adult cancer cases every year. This means that obesity and being overweight could account for up to 3.6 per cent of all cancer cases around the world.

Your suggestions

As a healthcare professional what short and long term solutions do you see fit for this growing problem? Leave your comments below.

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