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Obesity Costs in England

Costs & Risks of Obesity in UK

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, told Parliament today that the prevalence of obesity in England had tripled over the last 20 years and continues to rise. Most adults in England are now overweight, and one in five is obese.

Producing the first authoritative estimates of the costs and consequences of obesity in England, Sir John estimated that obesity accounted for 18 million days of sickness absence and 30,000 premature deaths in 1998. On average, each person whose death could be attributed to obesity lost nine years of life. Treating obesity costs the NHS at least £½ billion a year. The wider costs to the economy in lower productivity and lost output could be a further £2 billion each year.

Sir John recommends that greater effort is placed on establishing an evidence based approach to the problem to enable the NHS to adopt a more consistent approach to the management of obesity. Continued and more extensive joint working across government is also needed, both nationally and locally, to promote long term changes in lifestyles.

Nearly two thirds of men and over half of women in England are now overweight or obese. And the problem here is increasing faster than in most other European countries. If prevalence continues to rise at the current rate, more than one in four adults will be obese by 2010. This would significantly increase the incidence of associated diseases, such as coronary heart disease, and would cost the economy over £3.5 billion a year by that date.

“There are no easy solutions to the problem but progress is possible. There is scope to do more to promote healthier lifestyles and improve NHS services for the increasing number of people whose health is at risk from excess weight.”

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