A third of the country does not have access to obesity treatment, despite weight having become a growing issue during the pandemic, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has warned.
The college has created a short documentary film bringing together its special adviser on obesity, Professor Rachel Batterham, with experts including chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty and Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity at NHS England.
The documentary had made the point that, despite government attempts at tackling the obesity crisis, many of those living with the condition are not able to lose weight without specialist interventions – yet these simply aren’t available in their area.
The RCP is, as a result, calling for a ‘national obesity prescription’ for England, which would, it has argued, put an end to the postcode lottery of care and increase access to dedicated weight management services people can self-refer to.
In the documentary Professor Batterham says: “We all know someone whose life is affected by obesity. But the vast majority of people are unable to access any treatment for their condition.
“People who live with obesity experience stigma in every part of their life. We need to change the narrative.
Obesity and health
“Obesity is not simple; it is not due to lack of will power. It is a complex, multi-factorial disease that is driven by health inequalities. People living with obesity deserve evidence-based treatment and empathy for their condition – not stigma,” she adds.
Those living with obesity often develop other health conditions, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and sleep disorders, the college has highlighted.
They are also at far greater risk of severe illness from Covid-19. Yet, many do not seek help for their condition for fear of being stigmatised.
The RCP has argued that, to tackle this stigma, obesity must be considered a medical problem where genetics, biological and social factors all play a significant role in. It has called for obesity to be recognised as a disease.
The film has also made the point that wider health inequalities, such as access to safe and suitable housing, education and healthy food, can also act as a significant driver for the disease.