Obesity and unemployment – what’s the link?

We all know that the rise in obesity across Europe is a significant concern. But did you know that high levels of obesity often coincide with high rates of unemployment? A recent Gallup poll shows that the longer a person is unemployed, the higher the rates of obesity, with rates reaching up to 32.7% after a year or more of unemployment. 

14 organisations from across Southern England and Northern France have come together to tackle these two issues holistically via ASPIRE (Adding to Social capital and individual Potential In disadvantaged REgions). This €10 million Interreg VA Channel project has been awarded more than €7 million by the European Regional Development Fund and runs from September 2019 to February 2023. 

The challenge tackled by ASPIRE is reflected in local statistics: whilst the national unemployment rate in France is around 10%, the Hauts-de-France region is the worst affected at nearly 13%. Obesity rates there exceeded 20% in 2016, six percentage points above the French average. Equally, according to a UN report one quarter of British adults are obese, with levels having more than trebled in the last 30 years: 63.1% of people in South East England and 62.7% in South West England are overweight.

It’s clear to see that a worryingly high proportion of people are considered as being obese and overweight in these two areas and the highest levels are recorded in areas of high economic deprivation. An OECD report exploring the relationship between education & obesity states that “obesity tends to be more prevalent in disadvantaged socio-economic groups.” Whilst eating healthily can often seem unachievable on a budget, knowledge of how to cheaply grow and prepare fresh fruit and vegetables can make all the difference.

ASPIRE will give obese/overweight and/or unemployed people the tools they need to make healthier lifestyle choices and improve their employability. Current health and employment services rarely work together to tackle the issues as one problem, despite the evidence that they are linked. The project will encourage a “grow your own, eat your own, sell your own” ethos inspiring a new model, co-created using partner expertise in both fields. 

The model will holistically combine the necessary support to increase employability with access to local healthy food produce and consequent weight loss. The model will be implemented at 7 sites and using innovative technology to enable participants to improve their relationship with food and provide them with the skills and support they need to gain access to the employment market. 

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What is Interreg France (Channel) England? https://www.channelmanche.com

Interreg FCE is an EU programme set up to foster economic development in the south of the UK and north of France by funding innovative projects which have a sustainable cross-border benefit in the Programme’s eligible regions.

For more information please contact: Sophie McGannan, Project Manager, sophie.mcgannan@nhs.net 

Obesity report highlights risk of Type 2 diabetes for ‘slightly’ overweight people

Health experts say a new study on obesity sheds more light on the link between weight gain and the risk of serious disease and death.

The massive research project – which involved nearly three million sets of data – suggests that even being slightly overweight doubles the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The results have been presented to the 26th European Congress on Obesity taking place from April 28 – May 1 in Glasgow.

Researchers say the size of the study makes it different from anything that has previously been done.

It analysed data from the UK on more than 2.8 million adults, with an average age of 51, over an 18-year period between January 2000 and July 2018.

Our DWELL project is working to better manage and prevent Type 2 Diabetes, to read more about the project go to: http://www.healthandeuropecentre.nhs.uk/home-3/projects/current-projects-2/dwell-diabetes-and-wellbeing/

To read more about this article, go to: https://www.euronews.com/2019/04/29/obesity-report-highlights-risk-of-type-2-diabetes-for-slightly-overweight-people

Obesity Update – OECD

Today, more than one in two adults and nearly one in six children are overweight or obese in the OECD area. The obesity epidemic has spread further in the past five years, although at a slower pace than before. Despite this, new projections show a continuing increase of obesity in all studied countries. Social disparities in obesity persist and have increased in some countries. A nearly tenfold variation in obesity and overweight rates can be seen across OECD countries.

In the last few years, new policy strategies devised to fight obesity have emerged. The OECD have produced an Obesity Update which focuses on a selection of those, specifically at communication policies aimed to tackle obesity, in particular by improving nutrient information displayed on food labels, using social and new media to sensitise the population, or by regulating the marketing of food products. Better communication helps empower people to make healthier choices. However, comprehensive policy packages, including not only communication but also broader regulatory and fiscal policies, are needed to tackle obesity effectively.

To read the full update on the OECD website: Obesity Update

Southern European countries have highest rate of childhood obesity

The latest data (2015–2017) from the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) show that southern European countries have the highest rate of child obesity. In Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, San Marino and Spain, approximately 1 in 5 boys (ranging from 18% to 21%) are obese. Denmark, France, Ireland, Latvia and Norway are among the countries with the lowest rates, ranging from 5% to 9% in either sex.

In addition to weight and height measurements, many countries also submitted nutritional data, such as eating habits, as part of the programme. Encouragingly, in several countries three quarters or more of boys and girls are eating fruit either every day or most days (4–6) of the week. These include Albania, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, the Russian Federation (Moscow), San Marino and Turkmenistan (data from France and other countries in Scandinavia was not available here). Children in these countries also had lower consumption of foods like pizza, French fries, fried potatoes, hamburgers, sausages or meat pies, consuming them 1–3 days per week or never. Other data collected by the project include that on parent’s opinion of the child’s weight status, and also physical activity habits, although again not all of the 34 countries submitted data here

To read more about this on the WHO Europe website go to: WHO/Europe | Nutrition – Latest data shows southern European countries have highest rate of childhood obesity

The economic costs of unhealthy diets and low physical activity

Unhealthy diets and low physical activity contribute to many chronic diseases and disability; they are responsible for some 2 in 5 deaths worldwide and for about 30% of the global disease burden. Yet surprisingly little is known about the economic costs that these risk factors cause, both for health care and society more widely.

This study pulls together the evidence about the economic burden that can be linked to unhealthy diets and low physical activity.

The study’s findings are a step towards a better understanding of the economic burden that can be associated with two key risk factors for ill health and they will help policymakers in setting priorities and to more effectively promoting healthy diets and physical activity.

To download the report Assessing the costs of unhealthy diet and low physical activity from the euro.who.int websit

TV and internet marketing to children

The WHO have produced a protocol “Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children via television and the Internet” to help countries in the European Region gather data in a way that will support policy changes.
Most data on the prevalence of food and beverage marketing come from high-income, English-speaking countries,
specifically Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. They show that the marketing of HFSS foods (high in saturated fats, salt and/or sugar) to children is highly prevalent, actively uses persuasive techniques likely to appeal to children and is present across multiple media, including broadcast television and social media online.
Continued monitoring is needed in these countries, to ensure that up-to-date evidence is available to inform and strengthen policy and that policies are adequately evaluated.
More data are urgently needed from other countries, however, to support the domestic policy-making process and to build a more representative global picture of food-marketing activity.
Studies conducted in accordance with this protocol will interest policy-makers, academic researchers, public health
practitioners and advocacy groups in the WHO European Region and worldwide.
To download the protocol on Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children from the euro.who.int website

Obesity and the public purse

This is the first study to estimate the annual savings that overweight and obese people bring UK taxpayers by dying prematurely (in 2016 prices). Ignoring these savings leads to substantial overestimation of the true burden of elevated body mass index (BMI) to the taxpayer. The study’s estimates of the present value of pension, healthcare and other benefit payments avoided through early, BMI-caused deaths (net of foregone tax payments) is £3.6 billion per annum.

This report, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, analyses the cost of obesity to public services and estimates that the net cost is less than £2.5 billion a year or 0.3 per cent of government spending. The report argues that the economic burden of obesity has been exaggerated and that the health care costs of an ageing population should be the focus for public service efficiency savings.

To read the full report on the true costs of obesity on the dodsmonitoring.com website

EU support for public health priorities

In Europe, six of the seven biggest risk factors for premature death are directly linked to how we eat, drink and move. Moreover, rising levels of obesity across Europe is a great concern and can contribute to or aggravate many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

More than 20 pan-European actions have been co-financed under the 2nd and 3rd EU Health Programmes, to exchange best practices, develop recommendations and improve standardized methods of data collection about nutrition and physical activity promotion.

At the end of 2016 a three day meeting was organised to share the results from more than 30 successful projects in the areas of nutrition and physical activity that can be carried out by policy makers, schools and the community.

To download the presentations on nutrition and physical activity go to the ec.europa.eu website

Longer life, but not necessarily healthier life

Life expectancy now exceeds 80 years in most EU countries according to the new report “Health at a Glance: Europe 2016“, but these are not always healthy life years. Around 50 million people in the EU suffer from several chronic diseases, and more than half a million people of working age die from them every year, representing an annual cost of some €115 billion for EU economies. Three fundamental changes are needed if this is going to change:

  • more effective health systems: 550,000 people of working age die every year from potentially avoidable diseases. 16% of adults are obese now (up from 11% in 2000) and one in five is still smoking. Many lives could be saved firstly, by focusing more resources on health promotion and disease prevention strategies and secondly, by improving the quality of acute and chronic care.
  • more accessible health systems: 27% of patients go to A & E due to the lack of availability of primary care; an average of 15% of health spending is paid directly out-of-pocket by patients with large disparities between countries; and poor Europeans are on average 10 times more likely to have problems in getting proper healthcare for financial reasons than more affluent ones. Member States’ policies should focus on reducing financial barriers to healthcare, strengthening access to primary care, and reducing excessive waiting times.
  • more resilient health systems: Across the EU the share of the population over 65 has increased from less than 10% in 1960 to nearly 20% in 2015 and is projected to increase to nearly 30% by 2060. Population ageing, combined with increasing rates of chronic diseases and budgetary constraints, will require changes in how we deliver healthcare, including developing eHealth, reducing hospital stays by organising services better in primary and community care, and spending more wisely on pharmaceuticals, including by making full use of opportunities for generic substitutions.

More information about Improving Health Systems on the europa.eu website

Tackling Childhood Obesity

Tackling Childhood Obesity in Europe through Awareness and Prevention 

Thursday 12th October 2017 at the Thon Hotel, Brussels

Around one-third of 11-years-olds in Europe are overweight or obese according to the WHO. More than 60% of overweight children will stay overweight into adulthood, imposing a major burden on public spending. Indeed, around 7% of the national health budgets across the EU are spent each year on diseases linked to obesity.

This symposium will enable attendees to examine the factors underpinning childhood obesity and discuss the current strategies for prevention and treatment. The symposium will further offer delegates a platform to share ideas and best practice from across Europe.

For more information and to register for Tackling Childhood Obesity on the publicpolicyexchange.co.uk website