‘Ambitious’ plan to halve Sheffield’s obesity

An obese woman as the waistlines of more than half of women are too big
An obese woman as the waistlines of more than half of women are too big
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Ambitious plans to halve Sheffield’s obesity levels in five years have been revealed by a councillor who says action must be taken to defuse the city’s ticking weight timebomb.

Sheffield Council’s Child and Adult Weight Management Commissioning and Procurement Plan has revealed spending proposals due to take effect in October which aim to cut the number of people who are overweight or obese in Sheffield – currently a staggering 59.9 per cent of the adult population.

Coun Jack Scott says he wants to halve that figure to just 30 per cent within five years – which could save the council £82.5m a year in related spending.

The report says 22 per cent of pregnant mums-to-be in Sheffield are obese or morbidly obese when booking in for their pregnancy – above the national average of 16 per cent – which could put their babies’ lives at risk.

It said: “Approximately 22 per cent of pregnant women in Sheffield are obese or morbidly obese at booking, and the trend is increasing.

“Maternal obesity is an established risk factor for increased complications during pregnancy and in the post-natal period, compared to their counterparts who have a healthy BMI.”

Youngsters at school are also too fat – almost a fifth of Sheffield’s reception-age children are overweight – and, while the figure is lower than the national average, it increases by the time children are in Year 6.

It said: “In reception, just under a fifth of the children measured were overweight or very overweight, equating to around 1,100 children. Of these, just under 500 were ‘very overweight’.

“Of the eight core cities, Sheffield has the lowest prevalence of ‘very overweight’ in both reception and Y6, and the lowest prevalence of ‘overweight’ in reception, but only the fifth lowest in Y6.”

The problem gets worse once children reach their mid-teens: “Thirty two per cent of Sheffield’s over-15-year-old population are overweight and a further 21 per cent have too large a BMI.

“This equates to around 200,000 people who are overweight or obese in the city. Of these, 11,000 are recorded as being severely obese with a BMI over 40.

“These numbers are likely to be underestimates, and are based on available data collected by GP practices in Sheffield.

“However, they demonstrate the scale of the problem in Sheffield and the need for a clear pathway for weight management in the city which will prevent obesity and treat those who have become ill or incapacitated as a result.”

The report went on to add that the figure of 59.9 per cent of adults overweight or obese in Sheffield is slightly below the 63 per cent national average.

But those in deprived areas are being hit hard, and the obesity epidemic is clearly linked to long-term health issues.

“The increased incidence of obesity within ethnic minority groups and deprived areas is well recognised in Sheffield, as is the increased incidence of health related conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.”

Coun Scott said: “Overweight and obesity is linked to numerous long-term health conditions which are expensive to treat. Diabetes, for example, can cost £750,000 to treat a person over the lifetime of a patient.

“I would want to halve the overall £165m cost of treating obesity, and we would do that by halving the number of people who are overweight, from 60 to 30 per cent, thereby reducing the associated healthcare costs.

“That would put Sheffield as the best in the country. It is an ambitious plan.

“But if we did nothing it would be a disaster in the long term as we would have this timebomb explode on us.”

He said the focus is on early prevention – stopping people getting fat before it’s too late.

He added: “We’re focusing on prevention, as well as more early interventions, and communicating to parents to tackle early years obesity.

“If we prevent obesity or intervene early, when people have put just a little bit of weight on, we can prevent overweight or obesity in the longer term.

“That saves money because there is less spending on treating long-term health conditions.

“If we get this right, and we catch children when they are younger and we stop overweight people becoming obese, then I think that £165m figure could halve - and we have the right solution to make that work.

“This will save money for us in the long term and it will ensure there are fewer people who are overweight in Sheffield.”

The council’s proposals include an increase in spending on child and adult weight management services, from £899,592 to £959,592 per year.

The proposals show money will be taken out of community dietetics service – which deals with nutrition advice - and put into spending on child services.

Previously, the provisions included nothing on weight management for children aged birth age to four, but will now see £100,000 invested in the age bracket, while putting £200,000 into child weight management for those aged five to 15 – a slight £24,000 decrease.

But it will sink £259,592 into ‘tier one’ and ‘tier two’ adult services – where it was not spending any money before – reducing ‘tier three’ adult weight management by £79,682, but still putting £400,000 in.

Tier one is behavioural and preventative advice, tier two is weight-management services in the community or GP-led, and tier three is a multi-disciplinary approach involving doctors, nurses, dieticians and psychologists. Tier four would be surgery.

The money is not the total amount the council spends on weight-related issues, but is the value of the overweight and obesity contracts currently going out to tender.

The report cited £605,000 of spending on schemes including Activity Sheffield, Food Strategy implementation and British Cycling as examples of other health expenditure aimed at curbing weight problems.

The report added: “This report recommends £959,592 of direct investment in Weight Management Services for Children and Adults in Sheffield.

“The proposals in this report will mean Sheffield residents will have a comprehensive service from pre-conception to the end of life to help reduce the incidence of overweight and obesity, reduce the number of years lost through ill health, and reduce the associated health and social care cost.

“The intention through the proposals is to redistribute funding from treatment into prevention and early intervention across life.

“It is believed the proposal will provide a comprehensive programme of support for all groups in Sheffield, addressing current gaps in provision and targeting groups at risk.

The increased capacity at tier one and two will shift the focus of obesity treatment towards prevention and early intervention. This should have a greater impact in the longer term on halting the rise of obesity.”