Obesity is a growing public health issue that has significant impacts on society and healthcare. This essay focuses on weight management interventions in the local Plymouth area as well as mentioning global, national and local statistics. Both adult and childhood obesity are important factors in all aspects of healthcare today. Other issues discussed are health inequalities, implications of obesity and the role of the nurse with regard to health promotion and access of services. Health belief models are also discussed and how they can be used with regard to obesity.
A contemporary public health challenge
Statistics show an increasing prevalence of obesity in today’s society. Obesity is a global health issue, the World Health Organisation (2017) states that approximately 13% of the global adult population are obese, a figure that has tripled since 1975. This data is reflected in the UK, with national statistics on the rise. Data presented by NHS Digital (2017) demonstrates how obesity has changed over the past 22 years, increasing from 15% in 1993 to 27% in 2015. Data collected from the Active Lives survey showed excess weight in adults is widespread across the UK; in Plymouth, approximately 66.5% of adults carry excess weight which is higher than the England benchmark of 61.3% (Public Health England, 2017b). Collecting data by survey has many advantages and disadvantages. It is a good method of gathering data quickly and with low cost (Bryman, 2016). On the other hand, survey data can come with biases due to dishonest answers, making it hard to compare small differences (Baker, 2017).
Obesity can affect the body in many ways. The main consequence of obesity is an increased risk of non-communicable diseases including diseases of the cardiovascular system, diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders (WHO, 2017). Mental health can also be adversely impacted by obesity, although the relationship is somewhat paradoxical, being both the cause and consequence of obesity (Russell-Mayhew et al, 2012). It has been found that depression increases among US women as their waist circumference increases, although this data is drawn from the USA, it could be generalised within the UK (Ma and Xiao, 2010). It could be suggested that mental health needs to be included when helping obese individuals with their weight and physical health. Suggesting perhaps, a more holistic, all rounded approach to weight loss may be necessary to ensure long-term lifestyle adjustments and increase weight loss maintenance (Aston, 2017).
As well as impacting on the health of nations, there is a significant societal impact of obesity. Many countries are now having to deal with the issues of infectious diseases, an ageing population and now the impacts that arise with obesity (WHO, 2017). It was estimated in 2007 that the cost to the NHS of diseases and issues linked to being overweight or obese was £4.2 billion, this figure is predicted to increase to over £9 billion annually by 2050 (Government Office for Science, 2007). Not only is the cost of obesity impacting and creating strain on the NHS, but on all other areas of local authority and infrastructure. For instance, more money is spent on obesity related illnesses than on the fire, police and justice system combined (Public Health England, 2017a). In addition to the NHS expenditure, obesity can have high social costs. Obesity can impact on quality of life, limiting activity, lifestyle and mental health. It has been shown that overweight individuals suffer with adverse psychosocial and socioeconomic impacts due to their weight (Craigie et al, 2011). A further study investigating obesity in adolescents and their health-related quality of life (HRQOL) found that the adolescents with the highest obesity have the worst HRQOL (Modi et al, 2008). The implications of this negative mental effect of obesity is further reflected in Edmunds (2008) study showing, not only the implications on the overweight individual but their family too. Many parents may even choose holiday destinations that have higher obesity rates to make their child more comfortable, as well as some families buying houses in certain areas, such as cul-de-sacs, to encourage their overweight children to make friends (Edmunds, 2008). This potentially has further implications in nursing interventions suggesting that care needs to extend into families too, especially with overweight children. Taking into account these costs, it is clear that interventions for obesity need to be in place to help patients, their loved ones and to help the NHS. Policy is also impacted due to the growing health concern that is obesity, the National Child Measurement Programme is in place to alert parents of the health of their child and the implications of being overweight (Public Health England, 2013). This national policy can aid parents, providing a simple cost-effective strategy that is a fact sheet to encourage small dietary swaps or changes to create a healthier lifestyle (Public Health England, 2013).