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The obesity timebomb needs to be defused

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The NHS is facing a major public health dilemma. Failure to act will have serious adverse financial and healthcare consequences in the near future for our profession. It is possibly the most significant challenge for our industry.

The problem? According to health secretary Alan Johnson, two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the UK are already overweight or obese. And the numbers are rising. The core of the problem is simple – some people eat too much and undertake too little exercise.

This trend, if not checked, will hugely increase healthcare costs. Obesity has a severe impact on people’s health, increasing their risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart and liver disease.

So what is the solution? Nurses and healthcare staff are at the forefront of this ‘battle’ and can promote healthy eating and activity. We have a central role in helping people who are overweight or obese to achieve real sustained weight loss.

Perhaps one strategy would be for the NHS to offer personalised information and care that focuses on prediction and prevention as much as on diagnosis and cure.

Certainly, any delay in tackling this issue raises the real possibility that reversal of the obesity trend will cease to be an option.

The NHS could lobby for more concerted government action.

It is not the government’s job to lecture but it has a duty to give people clear information and to support the NHS as it endeavours to assist adults and children to adopt healthy diets and lifestyles.

Ultimately, though, the NHS will only succeed if the problem is recognised, owned and addressed through personal responsibility.

Steven Pack is a community psychiatric nurse, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

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