The impact of obesity is profound. It affects not only our health, but also our ability to lead happy, fulfilling lives. It also leads to increased, unsustainable demand on the NHS and other public services.
Obesity is the second-biggest preventable cause of cancer, behind only smoking, and is linked to around 2,200 cases of cancer a year in Scotland. Being overweight and obese is also the most significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, and can result in increased risk of other conditions including cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Poor diet and weight often also go hand in hand with other risk factors such as low physical activity, smoking and harmful drinking– compounding health harms.
As well as health impacts, there are significant socioeconomic implications. The annual cost of treating conditions associated with being overweight and obese is estimated to range from £363 million to £600 million. The total annual cost to the Scottish economy of overweight and obesity, including labour market related costs such as lost productivity, is estimated to be between £0.9 billion and £4.6 billion.
The pervasiveness of the obesity problem, and the health and economic consequences of obesity, mean that tackling it is a key priority and a major challenge for government and its delivery partners.
The Scottish Government is taking a joined up approach to addressing public health challenges and in June 2018, along with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities' (COSLA), published and launched Scotland's Public Health Priorities which will aim to focus efforts to improve the health of the population. Included in these is a priority to create 'a Scotland where we eat well, have a healthy weight and are physically active'.
In July this year, the Scottish Government published A Healthier Future – Scotland's Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan. The plan sets out a vision for everyone in Scotland to eat well and have a healthy weight. More specifically, it also sets an ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030, and to significantly reduce diet-related health inequalities. Actions to tackle childhood obesity start pre-pregnancy and continue throughout school years and into adolescence. This sits alongside broader, population measures to tackle the overall environment that makes it difficult to make healthier food choices. We published a consultation in October 2018 to consider the promotion of discretionary foods high in fat, sugar or salt with little or no nutritional benefit, and how such incentives encourage people to buy and eat more.
Recognising that the drivers of overweight and obesity are complex, multi-faceted and shaped by a broad range of factors, the delivery plan for improving diet and weight sits alongside a wide range of government policy and action. It is one of five linked public health strategies being published in 2018 for Alcohol Prevention, Substance Use, Tobacco Control, and Physical Activity.
In particular, Physical activity plays an important part in maintaining a healthy weight and tackling obesity. The Physical Activity Delivery Plan, 'A More Active Scotland' sets out what the Scottish Government, and a wide range of partners, are doing to encourage and support people in Scotland to be more active, more often. Progress towards the outcomes set out in the Delivery Plan is being monitored through a dedicated set of indicators linked to the Active Scotland Outcomes Framework.
Email: Xanthippi Gounari
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