HC Deb 20 May 2002 vol 386 c142W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans his Department have to increase awareness regarding the dangers of obesity and the need for exercise; how many cases of obesity have been diagnosed in each year since 1997 in(a) children and (b) adults; what the cost has been of treating obesity since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [54793]

Yvette Cooper

The Government have made policy commitments through the NHS Plan, the Cancer Plan, the coronary heart disease national service framework and the diabetes national service framework to tackle the rising trend in obesity. As required by the coronary hear disease national service framework, local programmes of effective policies on promoting healthy eating and physical activity and reducing overweight and obesity are under way.

We have put in place major cross-Government work. Specifically, this includes a national school fruit scheme and a wider five-a-day programme to increase access to and consumption of fruit and vegetables, supported by £52 million from the New Opportunities Fund (NOF). Also, work is under way with industry to improve the overall balance of diet including salt, fat and sugar in food.

Among children, there has been significant investment in primary physical education and sports facilities, including £581 million from the NOF for a physical education and sports programme.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has provided guidance on the use of the anti-obesity drugs orlistat and sibutramine.

Information on how many cases of obesity have been diagnosed each year is not held. However, the Department's hospital episode statistics for in-patient admissions in England showed a rise in children (0 to 16-years-old) from 152 in 1996–97 to 240 in 2000–01 and a rise in adults (over 16) from 630 in 1996–97 to 828 in 2000–01.

The National Audit Office report "Tackling Obesity in England", published in February 2001, estimated that in 1998 the direct cost to the NHS was at least £0.5 billion a year, or about 1.5 per cent. of NHS expenditure. It has also estimated a direct cost of £2 billion a year to the wider economy.

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