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Obesity rate doubles over past 20 years

New strategy to reduce diabetes cases and improve treatment

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Numbers of people who are obese in England have almost doubled in the last 20 years from 6.9 million to 13 million, according to new analysis released today by charity Diabetes UK.

The figures from the Health Survey for England (1997-2017) estimate that there are now 13 million people over the age of 16 with a BMI of 30 or above which classifies as obese – an increase of more than six million since 1997.

Given that obesity is the main driver for increasing cases of type 2 diabetes, Diabetes UK has launched a new strategy called 'A generation to end the harm: Diabetes UK Strategy 2020-2025' coinciding with World Diabetes Day 2019 today.

The charity’s analysis found that in England, almost a third (29%) of adults and 20% of 10 to 11-year-olds were living with obesity which is the most significant risk factor for new cases of type 2 diabetes, accounting for 80 to 85% of someone’s risk.

It is considered to be the main driver behind the rise in type 2 diabetes cases over the last 20 years. There are an estimated 2.85 million people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in England, and more than 850,000 living with the condition who do not know they have it because they have not yet been diagnosed − bringing the total up to 3.7 million.

The new strategy focuses on achieving five key outcomes by 2025:

  • more people with type 1, type 2 and all other forms of diabetes will benefit from new treatments that cure or prevent the condition
  • more people will be in remission from type 2 diabetes
  • more people will get the quality of care they need to manage their diabetes well
  • fewer people will get type 2 and gestational diabetes
  • more people will live better and more confident lives with diabetes, free from discrimination.

The charity said that more than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed, and in turn, the risk of developing the related complications, by tackling overweight and obesity.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Through our new strategy we’re restating our commitment to tackling the diabetes crisis on all fronts.

“We’re facing an urgent public health problem. Tackling this requires ambitious and sustained action from national governments, across sectors and departments. That’s because, right now, it’s hard to be healthy.

“We will keep challenging government and industry to put in place regulations and practices that make healthy choices easier for everyone, including making food and drinks healthier, and addressing the marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods.

“Without action, more people will develop type 2 and gestational diabetes – but with more awareness, government action and the right investment and support, we can change this.”

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