Nationally, in 2002, some 43% of men and 34% of women were overweight, 22% of men and
23% of women wee obese and 22% of boys and 28% of girls were overweight or obese.i This is
now an underestimate: it is expected that by 2010, there will be more than 12 million obese
adults and 1 million obese children in the country if no action is taken to halt the rise of obesity.
The upward trend of obesity is seen as the result of a combination of factors such as less active
lifestyle and changes in eating patterns.
Being obese increases the risk of developing a number of conditions, such as diabetes, high
blood pressure and high blood cholesterol that, in turn, increase the risk of life-threatening
conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Obesity also increases the risk of developing
some types of cancer, musculoskeletal disease, infertility and respiratory problems.ii
Regardless of age, a person with a BMI of 30 or greater has a higher risk of premature death
than someone with a healthy BMI (i.e.19-25).
Figure 1 shows the effect that unchecked obesity will have on the incidence of three key
conditions: diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease. Obesity has been called ‘the new
epidemic’ and likened in its risks to health to smoking. Whilst currently fewer people die in
Barnet due to the direct and indirect effects of obesity, it is clear that without adequate action,
morbidity and mortality will rise considerably over the coming years and will probably reverse
the current downward trend in death rates.
Childhood obesity is also an issue. PCTs are now required to measure the height and weight of
children in reception classes and year 6 classes each year. The results for Barnet are shown in
. The fact that obesity levels dropped slightly in 2006/07 may be a reflection of natural variation
and should not, at this stage, be regarded as an encouraging trend – we only have two years’
data so far and are currently awaiting confirmation of the data collected for 2007/08. Childhood
overweight and obesity is a special problem. It is difficult enough for an adult to lose weight, as
shown by the plethora of diet books and services available commercially. Childhood overweight
and obesity is a family issue: young children have no real sense of overeating or taking
insufficient exercise and are dependent upon adult family members and carers to help them
avoid or address obesity.
Figure 1: The proportionate increase expected in three diabetes, stroke and coronary
heart disease due to obesity (age and sex standardised)iii
Proportionate increase on current levels (%)
10 coronary heart disease
2005 2010 2015 2020 2025 2030 2035
Figure 2: Current obesity levels in Barnet reception classes and Year 6 classes and
actual data being trajectory
Proportion (%) of children identified as obese
2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
The relationship between diversity and deprivation and obesity
Both men and women in lower socio-economic groups are more likely to be obese than those
in professional occupations. In terms of differences between ethnic groups, Asian children more
likely to be obese compared to White children, and Black Caribbean women have obesity levels
much higher than the national average, as do Pakistani women, albeit to a lesser extent.
In common with other London PCTs, we are required to reduce the year-on-year rise in
childhood obesity. The trajectory for this is shown in
Key things that need to be done
The key activities required are:
expanding services for families so that obese children can be better enabled to lose weight;
targeting groups more likely to be overweight or obese to identify and manage risk factors for
cardiovascular disease; and
establishing services for GPs, practice nurses, community pharmacists, hospital doctors,
nurses and allied health professionals, and social care workers can signpost and/or refer
people to if they are obese.
Office for National Statistics. Health Survey for England, 2002. Office of National Statistics. London
National Audit Office Tackling obesity in England. London. 2001
http://www.foresight.gov.uk/Obesity/Obesity_final/Index.html (accessed 20 March 2008)