September 10, 2010

Warwick Comment

A recent report into obesity surgery has shown that it "could save millions of pounds". As reported by the BBC this week: "The Office of Health Economics suggests £1.3bn could be saved over three years if a quarter of eligible patients got treatment through more people working and fewer demands on the NHS."

Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, Chair of Public Health at Warwick Medical School suggests that surgery isnt' the answer to the problem:

Like so many of the treatments modern medicine offers, obesity surgery has helped and will continue to help some obese people greatly. It will also have created serious problems for a small number of people in whom surgery does not go well and overall, like other modern medical treatments, obesity surgery will have remarkably little effect on the public health.

The epidemic of obesity is very serious and it is not going to be solved by surgery or pills. It can only be solved by changing the obesogenic environment we have created and by making it clear that individuals are also responsible for their health. Obesity is caused by eating unhealthily and not taking enough exercise. So it is a problem individuals can solve for themselves.

Sugar intake is critical particularly in the form of fizzy drinks and snacks. Changing to healthier eating patterns, consuming for example more fruit and vegetables, and becoming more physically active both increase feelings of wellbeing so there are immediate positive returns for those who take these steps. Whatever the results the Office of Health Economics study, let us not fool ourselves into thinking that surgery is the answer.

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