The increasing prevalence of obesity

In the last 25 years the number of obese people in the UK has more than trebled, leading many doctors to argue that the condition has reached epic proportions. In addition to this, the number of children admitted to hospital for obesity related reasons has quadrupled in less than a decade.

A Government report recently claimed that obesity will cost the NHS £6.4 billion per year by 2015, which exceeds the costs of treating illnesses caused by smoking or alcohol.

In a debate on funding health and social care in England, Lord McColl of Dulwich, former professor and director of surgery at Guy’s Hospital, said: ‘The obesity epidemic is the worst epidemic to afflict this country for 90 years.’

One of the most common methods of ascertaining whether a person is obese is through calculating their body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A BMI above 25 indicates a person is overweight, a BMI of 30–40 illustrates they are obese, while a BMI above 40 indicates someone who is very obese.

Obesity is known to increase a patient’s risk of developing a number of health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.

The overall effect that obesity has had for paramedics remains unclear, yet the increasing demand for specialised equipment and concerns over moving and handling issues means that it is a topic that clearly needs to be addressed.

Unless obesity is tackled, the government predicts that 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children in Britain will be obese by 2050.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 23 July 2013.

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