People struggling to lose weight are now being offered help from their local high street pharmacy in England as part of the National Health Service (NHS) efforts to escalate action to tackle rising obesity levels and type 2 diabetes – major concerns among the Indian diaspora population in the country.
Community pharmacy teams will be equipped to refer adults living with obesity, and other conditions, to a 12-week online NHS weight management programme. People from ethnic minority backgrounds, such as those of Indian heritage, can join the programme at a lower body mass index (BMI) of 27.5 as opposed to 30 considered the obesity mark, due to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
“Obesity is a significant threat to the nation’s health – it increases your chance of dying from COVID and puts you at greater risk of stroke, cancer and other deadly disease,” Dr Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at NHS England.
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“The NHS’s radical action plan means it is now easier for people to take control of their health – adults with obesity can now walk into any high street community pharmacy to take the first step on a life-changing weight loss journey,” he said.
People, including high risk groups, are being urged to come forward and community pharmacies are expected to make hundreds more referrals in the coming weeks. General Practitioners (GPs) in England have already referred over 50,000 adults living with obesity at risk of developing weight-related conditions. People will be able to start the programme within 10 days of visiting their local pharmacy, with support for some people including one-to-one coaching from a weight loss expert. Adults living with obesity plus hypertension or diabetes will qualify for the service, which people can access via an app on their smartphone or online.
According to official statistics, three in five adults in England are overweight, with more than one in four living with obesity. Recent research found that people seeking NHS help to lose weight during the pandemic were on average five pounds heavier than those doing so during the previous three years.
NHS England said: “One of the core knock-on effects of obesity in this country is an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS £10 billion a year, with almost one in 20 GP prescriptions for a diabetes treatment.
“Projections also show that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 extra people suffering a heart attack in 2035, and over 50,000 experiencing a stroke.”
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Adults from white ethnicity are eligible to join the programme with a BMI of 30+, alongside a diagnosis of hypertension, diabetes or both. Adults from ethnic minority backgrounds are eligible to join the programme with a lower BMI of 27.5+, along with a diagnosis of hypertension, diabetes or both.
All 11,000 pharmacies in England have a trained Healthy Living Champion who provides health information and signposts patients to relevant health services to enable them to live healthier lifestyles. Trained staff in pharmacies will work with people who want to lose weight and signpost them to a range of resources and available support including the NHS weight management programme.
The latest action to tackle rising obesity levels and type 2 diabetes is part of the NHS Long Term Plan which was launched in January 2019.