The Obesity Action Campaign

With obesity levels on the rise, it has never been more important for us to know exactly when and how we are most at risk. To mark the launch of his Obesity Action Campaign, which aims to encourage people all over the UK to measure their waistlines in a bid to find out how healthy they really are, Susannah Taylor met with founder Dr Jude Oben to find out more.

How big is our obesity problem?

Our obesity problem in the UK is currently very bad. In 1980, about 8 per cent of adults were obese in comparison to today’s ever expanding figure of 30 per cent. That’s an increase of over 300 per cent in just a few years.

The cost of treating obese patients to the NHS is around 5 billion pounds - the equivalent of a country like Malta’s entire annual earnings. Some obese patients can’t work, meaning they are supported by the health system but not covering the cost of their own care. Factoring all this in, the cost to the UK economy is a staggering 30 billion pounds. A recent government report, which predicts that by 2050 at least half of the UK adult population will be obese, means these problems are only going to get worse with time.

What life threatening illnesses can obesity cause?

Although many people just associate obesity with diabetes, it can cause a whole host of other problems throughout the body. Starting from the top, obesity has been cleary associated with cancer of the oesophagus, liver, pancreas, colon, prostate and breasts, as well as osteoarthritis, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

What is balloon surgery?

Like a gastric band, balloon surgery is a restrictive intervention which tries to persuade the stomach that it is already full. The balloon is made of silicon and is inserted into the stomach then filled with saline and a blue dye. For patients who don’t want a gastric band, the balloon is an alternative treatment which stays inside for 6 months before it’s removal. If patients do well, another treatment can be given. On a basic level, the balloon works by taking up room in the stomach thus leaving less space for food and making the patient feel fuller sooner.

How do we prevent people getting to this stage?

Firstly, we need to address the reasons why the UK population is getting fatter. With an excessive intake of high energy-dense foods, we need to enforce the message that while food is good, too much of it can kill you.

Why is the BMI index wrong?

The BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. As our home scales can’t tell us how much of our weight is muscle and how much of it is fat, we need something far simpler which is not dependant on height to tell us when we are at risk.

Using a CirC-Tape to measure the waist is a far better way of deeming whether or not you are a healthy size. With one side for males and one side for females, the tape tells you whether or not you should be worried depending on what colour your waist circumference reaches. Green means you are fine, white suggests you are underweight, orange means you should be concerned and being in the red zone means it’s time to go see you GP. The frame size doesn’t matter so the tape works for all, and the measurement should be taken level with the belly button.

What other plans do you have for the Obesity Action Campaign?

On the 14th of this month we were hosted in Parliament to launch our CirC-Tape, and we would really love for every household to own one. For children, we plan to have ambassadors in schools telling them to go home and measure their parents to try and encourage a healthier family life, as healthy parents often mean healthy children.

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