HC Deb 30 April 2002 vol 384 cc767-9W
Mr. Gale

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what information she has collated on the number of(a) adults and (b) children who are currently overweight or obese; and what percentage of each population that figure represents; [49310]

(2) what recent estimates she has made as to the total cost (a) to the national health service and (b) to the economy of illness, inactivity and premature death associated with overweight and obesity; [49311]

(3) if he will make a statement on his plans to combat obesity; [49312]

(4) what were the main conclusions of his Department's recent response to the Ninth report of the Committee on Public Accounts on the subject of obesity; [49313]

(5) what targets he intends to set for reductions in the levels of overweight and obesity; and what resources and strategies he will put in place to ensure that they are achieved. [49314]

Yvette Cooper

[holding answer 18 April 2002]: The Health Survey for England 2000 reported that 45 per cent. of men were overweight and 21 per cent. obese, and 34 per cent. of women were overweight and 21 per cent. obese.

The Health Survey for England 1995–97 reported that 22 per cent. of six-year-olds and 31 per cent. of 15-year-olds are overweight. The prevalence of obesity ranges from 10 per cent. at age six years to 17 per cent. at age 15 years.

The National Audit Office publication 'Tackling Obesity in England' reported that in 1998 30,000 deaths (of which 9,000 were before the age of 65 years) were attributable to obesity. There is an estimated direct cost to the national health service (NHS) of at least £0.5 billion a year, or about 1.5 per cent. of NHS expenditure. There is also an estimated direct cost of £2 billion a year to the wider economy.

Obesity is a complex condition, but is largely preventable through addressing the risk factors of diet and physical inactivity. The Government are committed to tackling this rising trend in obesity and are taking positive steps to improve prevention, treatment and management of obesity through the NHS Plan, Cancer Plan and national service frameworks.

We have put in place cross-Government work and local action is under way to promote physical activity and healthy eating and tackle overweight and obesity. Specifically, these include a national school fruit scheme, a wider five-a-day programme to increase access to and consumption of fruit and vegetables and work with industry to improve overall balance in diet, including salt, fat and diet. Among children, there has been significant investment in primary physical education (PE) and sports facilities, including £581 million from the new opportunities fund for a PE and sports programme.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has provided guidance on the anti-obesity drugs orlistat and sibutramine for the NHS. Treatment with these drugs will be supported by advice, support and counselling on diet, physical activity and behavioural strategies. NICE are also reviewing surgical interventions to treat morbid obesity, the findings of which are expected in summer 2002. Referral to NICE of further guidance topics remains under consideration.

We welcomed the Public Accounts Committee report on 'Tackling Obesity in England', published in January 2002, the official response to which was published on 21 March 2002 and has been placed in the Library.

No specific targets are set for reductions in the levels of overweight and obesity. However, the coronary heart disease national service framework sets standards and specific milestones for action on local programmes of effective policies on reducing overweight and obesity. Meeting these standards will contribute to achieving on of the four targets set in Our Healthier Nation, to reduce deaths from coronary heart disease by 40 per cent. in people in people under 75 by 2010.

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