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Obesity: whose responsibility?

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Few can have failed to notice that being fat is now at the top of the medical, and political agendas. Twenty-five percent of UK adults are now classified as obese, with another forty-two percent being overweight. Doctors have been getting excited about this for years, government has been slowly catching on, and now, finally, the public is starting to take notice themselves. A conversational subject once confined to women's diet clubs is now being talked about in the workplace, the pub, the classroom, and around the dinner table.

Carrying too much weight doesn't feel good. It might not look good either. And it certainly doesn't improve your performance at work, in the field, or the office, or at home. An obese man has four times the risk of heart disease; an obese woman a twelve-fold risk of type 2 diabetes. The biggest preventable cause of cancer, after smoking, is obesity, and if you die of an obesity related disease you're dying on average nine years too early. Obesity costs the NHS around £3.5 billion annually.

So what can be done about it? The 2007 Foresight Report called for more action to prevent, and treat obesity, at schools, at work, and at home. They promised a number of innovative measures to reduce the likelihood of our population continuing to gain weight. This year has seen the launch of the exciting new public health campaign from the Department of Health, called Change4Life, encouraging us all to start making those simple changes that can make all the difference. As the maxim goes, if you want a job done well, do it yourself.

While national programmes are constructed to help us all, it still falls to us as individuals to try and help ourselves, to rise up to the challenge of our personal responsibility. It's said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away; a little weight loss can achieve the same result. Being active at every opportunity, reducing alcohol, fat and sugar intake, and reducing our food portion sizes can go a long way to addressing the problem. There has never been a better time to start a healthier lifestyle, and reap a lifetime of benefit. More than ever, we owe it to ourselves. Come on, let's do it! Start making those changes now, and keep those Changes4Life.



By Dr Ian W Campbell
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