The report, by the Department of Health and Social Care, explores the six ‘major conditions’ – defined by this report as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, chronic respiratory disease, dementia, and mental ill health. The conditions, according to the report, drive ‘over 60% of ill health and early death in England.’
Obesity can increase risk of some of these conditions. The report outlines both what the government are currently doing, and what they plan to do in the future.
One in four of us is living with at least two of these conditions. Diet is a factor in this. For example, according to the report, women who are living with obesity are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those with a healthy weight.
Socio-economic factors can be linked to obesity, putting those of a lower socio-economic status at greater risk of suffering from conditions such as cardiovascular disease. For example, year six children in deprived areas were twice as likely to live with obesity as those in the most affluent ones.
Poor socio-economic status can be linked to other conditions, such as poor mental health.
What is to be done?
NHS England is already doing several things to reduce the risks of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. For example, it's working to reduce sugar, salt and calories in food (including baby food); working in a Food Data Transparency Partnership to drive up transparency on healthiness in sales; expanding access to specialist clinics for children living with severe obesity; and rolling out a £40m programme to expand access to weight loss drugs.
However, the report authors are not content with this, and lay out a number of plans for the future. In the area of cardiovascular disease prevention, the NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme works with people living with obesity or overweight, or who are at risk of diabetes, to replace their diets. These diet replacements will consist of low calorie soups or shakes, of around 800 to 900 kilocalories, over the course of three months.
NHS England also plans to explore options for cardiovascular disease early diagnosis as much as possible, and build a cardiovascular disease prevention service.
Obesity can also be a cause of musculoskeletal health conditions. To prevent these conditions, the report suggests targeting those most at risk using population health management methodologies, as well as exploring the need to improve fracture liaison services.
Finally, cancer can be linked to obesity. The next steps with tackling cancer, the report states, are targeting screenings at underserved groups, and giving clinicians greater freedom to introduce new technologies into their practices.