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Obesity should be classed as a national risk, says England chief medical offer

Obesity is the biggest threat to women’s health and should be treated as a “national risk”, according to England’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.
Dame Sally’s annual report for 2014 focuses on women and highlights that obesity increases the risk of several diseases, such as breast cancer and heart disease. Obesity is also a primary risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
A 2013 report found that over 50 per cent of women in England aged 25 to 34 are overweight or obese, while this figure is over 60 per cent for women aged 45 to 54.
Dame Sally believes obesity should be a priority for the whole population. By calling for it to be classed as a national risk, it would be placed on the emergency lists of priority threats to the country, alongside terror and cyber attacks and flu pandemics.
“Obesity has to be a national priority. Action is required across all of society to prevent obesity and its associated problems from shortening women’s lives and affecting their quality of life,” said Dame Sally.
Professor Nick Finer, University College London’s Institute of Cardiovascular Science, added that obesity was now “the most pressing health issue for the nation” and “estimates of the economic costs of obesity suggest they will bankrupt the NHS.”
Pregnancy
Obesity in pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, miscarriage and gestational diabetes. Having gestational diabetes heightens the risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.
A woman’s overall health during pregnancy can have long-term consequences for the health of the child, such as a higher risk of obesity and heart disease, and Dame Sally’s report highlights that rising obesity levels are jeopardising the health of future generations.
“In women obesity can affect the outcomes of any pregnancies they have and the health of any future children they may have,” she said.
“This is a difficult message to convey, as it risks burdening women with guilt and responsibility, but I believe that it can also empower women to take positive steps like eating more healthily and taking more exercise. It is never too late to take action for a healthier lifestyle – for you and your family.”
Breaking the taboo
The report also aims to “break the taboo” over health problems such as urinary and faecal incontinence and the menopause.
“Problems ‘below the waist’ are not generally seen as attractive topics for public discussio, and women are often reluctant to seek help for common disabling conditions,” said Dame Sally. “This needs to end – women should never suffer in silence.”
Dame Sally also called for a “national audit of ovarian cancer” to boost survival rates, and the need for early diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders which are more common in women, such as bulimia, anorexia and binge-eating.

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