A medical professional body have called for obesity to be “urgently” recognised as a disease, rather than a lifestyle choice, to help improve patient care.
The Royal College of Physicians have warned that until the government and the broader health sector identify obesity as an ongoing chronic disease, its prevalence is unlikely to be reduced.
“It is a disease caused by health inequalities, genetic influences and social factors”
The body said that this recognition would allow the creation of formal healthcare policies to help improve care in hospitals and GP surgeries.
It added that such a move would also provide room for “significant and far-reaching” preventative measures to be put in place.
The RCP explained that, as well as encouraging prevention, treatment and greater empathy with patients, it wanted to see a change to public discourse about obesity, so that those with the condition are no longer blamed for it.
Professor Andrew Goddard, the RCP’s president, said: “It is important to the health of the nation that we remove the stigma associated with obesity.
“It is not a lifestyle choice caused by individual greed, but a disease caused by health inequalities, genetic influences and social factors,” he said.
According to the govenrment arms’-length body Public Health England, 63% of adults were classed as being overweight or obese in 2015. During 2015 to 2016, 19.8% of children aged 10 to 11 were obese and a further 14.3% were overweight.
“It is governments, not individuals, which can have an impact on the food environment through regulation and taxation, and by controlling availability and affordability, added Mr Goddard.
“Governments can also promote physical activity by ensuring that facilities are available to local communities, and through legislation and public health initiatives,” he said.