Nanny state fat tests for adults over 40 in new labour Government drive to tackle obesity
The NHS Health Checks aim to identify an individual’s risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and kidney disease with a personal assessment and tailored advice.
It is the first systematic programme to measure body weight in adults and GPs will be expected to test 2.25m people a year with each person called back on average once every five years for another check.
The Healthy Weight Healthy Lives; one year on report, outlines the labour Government strategy to tackle obesity with the ‘ambition’ of being the first nation to reverse the rising tide of obesity.
NHS staff will also be targeted as estimates show of the 1.2m people working in the NHS, 300,000 will be obese and a further 400,000 are likely to be overweight.
Personalised support for midwives, health visitors and other NHS staff will ‘boost the credibility of the healthy living messages they give to mums to be and families’, the report said.
Dawn Primarolo, Public Health Minister, said: “More than 60 per cent of adults in England are overweight or obese, leaving them at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart and liver disease. BMI checks will make sure people know they are overweight and will help to turn their health around
“Early signs show that we may be halting the rise in childhood obesity. But there’s still more to do in particular to tackle obesity in adults.”
Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs Committee, said: “Obesity is a serious problem for many people. GPs already advise obese patients about the best ways to lose weight – it’s an important issue and has a big impact on a person’s overall health and quality of life.
“Extra resources are needed, as well as a public health campaign, much better food education at school and for new parents. We welcome any scheme that might help the NHS to help people tackle the problem of obesity.”
The checks will involve taking height and weight measurements and plotting body mass index on a chart with 18.5 to 25 classified as healthy weight, between 25 and 30 as overweight, and over 30 as obese. Other tests such as cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar may be taken as well.
However, at the same time a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition said body mass index does not accurately indicate body fat in different ethnic groups.
Dr Molly Bray, Associate Professor of Paediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital, and author of the study said: “This scale was created years ago and is based on Caucasian men and women.
“It doesn’t take into account differences in body composition between genders, race/ethnicity groups, and across the lifespan.”
The report also outlines a number of initiatives aimed at children with mandatory nutrient content of school meals to be extended from primary schools to secondary schools in September, the publication of a recipe book of ‘picnic-style’ meals for the school holidays and investment in cycling.
The report said from this month subsidised gym membership for 16 to 22-year-olds will run for 12 months in pilot areas in Newcastle, Bristol, Torbay, Manchester and Bury St Edmonds in order to evaluate the ‘feasibility and effectiveness of financial incentive schemes targeted at this age group’.
Sue Davies, chief policy adviser at the consumer group Which?, said: “We know that four in five people want to eat more healthily, but more must be done to make the healthy choice the easy choice.
“We’re seeing really positive action in some areas but we can’t afford to be complacent; industry and the government are still skirting around contentious issues like promotions to children. Walk around any supermarket and you’ll see conflicting labelling schemes, shelves of fatty, sugary and salty foods targeted at kids, and the majority of price promotions are for the less healthy foods.
“To make this work, we need to go much further and faster to break down the barriers to healthy eating.”
The report suggests restrictions should be on putting unhealthy food at children’s eye height in stores, which was immediately dismissed by food industry representatives.
Andrew Opie, Food Director at the British Retail Consortium said. “Rules about which products should go on which shelves would be seriously misguided. It’s very hard to see how this could work in practice. How high is child’s eye-line anyway? It’s parents who buy children’s food. The idea that making particular foods hard to reach would make any difference is ludicrous.
“There are no bad foods only bad diets. This proposal risks demonising foods which can happily be eaten as part of a balanced diet.”
Mike Penning, Shadow Health Minister, said the health checks have been announced in different guises several times already.
He said: “Labour continue to be obsessed with chasing headlines rather than putting in place sound policies to improve our NHS.
“Obesity is a really serious issue that deserves a well thought out response. Instead all we get is a long line of re-announcements of tired old ideas from a Labour Government that has run out of steam.”