THE number of hospital admissions for obesity in the North East has more than doubled in just two years, stark new figures show.
Public health experts and politicians in the region said the dramatic increase could be put down to a history of social deprivation and said obesity was a “colossal” problem that would take years to address.
New figures have revealed there were 856 NHS hospital admissions in 2009/10 where the main reason for treatment was that the person was obese.
This figure is more than double the number in 2007/08, when there were 421 hospital admissions.
A study by NHS Information Centre released yesterday also showed soaring numbers undergoing operations to help them lose weight and highlighted that scores more are taking prescribed weight-loss pills.
In 2009/10, the number of bariatric surgery procedures in the North East reached 483, with women accounting for 77% of the total. This is more than double the figure for 2007/08 of 217. Prof John Wilkinson, from the North East Public Health Observatory, said tackling obesity was a long-term health issue and there was no quick fix. He said: “Clearly we have a long way to go in the North East to get obesity levels down.
“Historically there has been a lot of health problems in the region and obesity is a long-term issue that is going to take a number of years to go away. It is not just an issue of the NHS – it is also a societal issue.
“Obesity levels can be linked to cheap food as it contains a lot of fat and clearly there is a direct relationship between poverty and obesity. It is difficult for people on low incomes to afford healthy options and it is essential the food industry addresses this.”
However, there is no sign obesity levels among adults in the North East is on the wane any time soon.
Obesity is linked to a number of health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure, which puts a financial strain on the NHS.
Local councils, community voluntary groups and Primary Care Trusts (PCT) have joined forces to set up a number of GP referral schemes to tackle the problem. Easington MP Grahame Morris, a member of the health select committee, said: “Obesity is a colossal problem in the North East and it will take a while until we see a downward trend – it cannot be fixed overnight. Our local PCTs and Strategic Health Authority have done some excellent public health work to address the issue, without which we would be seeing much higher obesity statistics.”