'Stronger measures' needed to tackle obesity epidemic as hospital cases rise

Health minister, Dr Dan Poulter, during his visit to the Timber Hill Health Centre. Picture: DENISE

Health minister, Dr Dan Poulter, during his visit to the Timber Hill Health Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

A Suffolk MP has called for the use of "hard-hitting advertising" and tax increases to tackle obesity as stats show the number of obesity-related hospital admissions is climbing in the county.

Data released by NHS England show that obesity-related hospital admissions in Suffolk are going up faster than the national average.

In Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG area there were 7,975 obesity related hospital admissions in 2019/20 — up 23%. While in the area covered by West Suffolk CCG there were 6,080 — up 22%. Nationally the number of admissions has risen by 17%.

However, over the border in north east Essex the number of obesity-related admissions only rose by 12%.

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and a practising NHS doctor, likened the impact of obesity to the smoking problem the country faced 20 years ago.

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He said: "We are seeing year on year, more and more hospital admissions, more and more medical complications in people related to their weight.

"The health consequences of people being obese are linked with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, different types of cancer. Almost every part of every aspect of healthcare."

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Dr Poulter said the coronavirus lockdowns may have made the problem worse, but it is "too soon to tell".

"My sense is that probably there have been a fair number of people who have perhaps piled on a few extra pounds because of being trapped indoors during those dark winter months."

But, he added, the NHS being unable to carry out planned surgeries may have exacerbated the problem.

"Elective operations for things like bariatric surgery may have dropped off slightly. But you also find elective surgery for knee operations, hip operations, and other things that help people to become more active and she had the pounds have also been cancelled."

To tackle the issue of obesity Dr Poulter said the government needed to use "hard hitting advertising" to illustrate the impacts of obesity, as well as encouraging physical activity. He also called for tax increases on unhealthy foods. 

Dr Juno Jesuthasan, prevention lead for the NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "Obesity is not the only issue, as people being underweight is equally problematic. We have seen a big increase in eating issues during lockdown, with people going in both directions, including a quite a lot of children and young people suffering from anorexia."

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