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Funding criticised

UK report: Funding for surgery is inexplicable

The report suggests that bariatric surgery would not be necessary if money was spent more wisely elsewhere

A report by the Health Select Committee criticises NHS England for spending more money on weight loss surgery than on measures to prevent obesity, reports It is important, the report argues, that more emphasis is placed on spreading awareness of the benefits of exercise: "The committee regards it as inexplicable and unacceptable that the NHS is now spending more on bariatric surgery for obesity than on a national roll-out of intensive lifestyle intervention programmes that were first shown to cut obesity and prevent [type 2] diabetes over a year ago."

By encouraging the public to eat more healthily and get more exercise, the report suggests, the government could see rates of type 2 diabetes drop significantly. The report recommends a stricter regulation of food ingredients, banning the marketing of sugary drinks to children, and providing greater support for people who are at risk of becoming obese or developing type 2 diabetes. In short, the report suggests that bariatric surgery would not be necessary if money was spent more wisely elsewhere.

"It is vital that the importance of physical activity for all the population - regardless of their weight, age, gender, health, or other factors - is clearly articulated and understood,” the report states. "We call on the next government to make a clear commitment, together with appropriate long-term funding, to significantly increase the levels of cycling and walking.

The report highlights the significant disparity in exercise levels between men and women as an example of inadequate promotion of the benefits of exercise.

"Bariatric surgery generates huge costs to patients, families and the NHS . We need public health policies that can save money by helping prevent people becoming obese in the first place,” said John Middleton, vice-president of the Faculty of Public Health. 

Professor John Wass, of the Royal College of Physicians, commented: "It is welcome to see the findings of this report recognise the importance and benefits of physical activity beyond just weight loss, as previous findings have shown regular physical activity of just 30 minutes, five times a week, can make a huge difference to a patient's health."

MPs insisted that interventions focused on encouraging individuals to change their behaviour with regard to diet and physical activity must be underpinned by broader, population-level measures because, although both are important, the advantage of population-level interventions is that they have an impact on far greater numbers than could ever benefit from individual interventions.

They called on the next Government to prioritise prevention, health promotion and early intervention to tackle the health inequalities and avoidable harm that currently result from poor diet and physical inactivity. This, they said, would require action to be taken at all levels, and “must also be core business for the NHS and local authorities”.

The Department of Health for England said a lot of progress had been made in tackling the issues raised by the MPs: "Our Change4Life campaign has been providing widespread free advice on healthy eating and exercise, and nearly two million more people now play regular sport than ten years ago. Working with the food industry, we have cut calories, salt and fat in food, and we have also given £8.2bn to local authorities to tackle public health issues like obesity."

To access the report, please click here

Related article: Editorial comment: Bariatric surgery is the wrong target

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