Diabetes journal questions David Camerons benefits plan for obesity

Fri, 20 Mar 2015
UK Prime Minister David Cameron's proposal to cut sickness benefits for people who are obese has been criticised by health experts.

An editorial in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal have responded to the Conservative Party's plans to reduce the country's benefits bill by £12 billion.

Cameron also announced in February that people who are obese, or suffer addiction problems, could be compelled to undergo weight-loss programmes to receive benefits.

Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, but weight loss programs have poor track record of success, and The Lancet editorial has questioned how effectively this treatment would be.

"Although many people who claim sickness benefits for obesity might welcome the opportunity to take part in an intervention that helps them to lose weight, any mandated programme should have a strong evidence base for success," the editorial says.

Higher healthcare costs

The editorial believes weight-loss programmes could result in higher healthcare costs, with extra money required to train staff to run the programmes, while a lack of current success making this expenditure a gamble.

Instead, the editorial suggests that weight-loss programmes could be offered to those who are interested, but money should otherwise be spent on the whole population.

Only 1,780 people claim benefits due to complications with obesity, according to a Freedom of Information request, but two thirds of British adults are obese are overweight.

The editorial proposes: "Instead of investment in a scheme that, at best, provides a short-term election sound bite, the government would be better placed to invest in schemes with the potential to improve the long-term health of the whole UK population."

This would be achieved by "universal free access to leisure facilities, investment in healthy outdoor spaces, and public health education about healthy diet and lifestyle."
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