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RCP premieres new hard-hitting documentary on obesity

A third of the country does not have access to obesity treatment, says the RCP in a new hard-hitting documentary about the growing obesity crisis and how to tackle it.

In the short film, RCP special adviser on obesity Professor Rachel Batterham meets leading experts including Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Professor Jonathan Valabhji OBE, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity at NHS England, to consider what needs to be done to tackle this complex problem.

The 27-minute documentary makes the point that despite the government’s attempts at tackling the obesity crisis, many of those living with the condition are not able to lose weight without specialist interventions and these simply aren’t available in their area. The RCP is calling for a National Obesity Prescription for England which would put an end to the postcode lottery of care and increase access to dedicated weight management services people can self-refer to.

Those living with obesity often develop other health conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and sleep disorders. They are also at far greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19. And yet, as several people living with obesity attest to in the film, many do not seek help for their condition for fear of being stigmatised. The RCP argues that to tackle this stigma, obesity must be considered a medical problem that genetics, biological and social factors all play a significant role in. It has called for obesity to be recognised as a disease.

The film argues that health inequalities such as access to safe and suitable housing, education and healthy food are also a driver for the disease. For many people, eating healthily comes second to eating at all. That is why the Royal College of Physicians has called on government to publish a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities.

In the documentary, Professor Rachel Batterham, says: “We all know someone whose life is affected by obesity. But the vast majority of people are unable to access any treatment for their condition.

“People who live with obesity experience stigma in every part of their life. We need to change the narrative.

“Obesity is not simple; it is not due to lack of will power. It is a complex, multi-factorial disease that is driven by health inequalities. People living with obesity deserve evidence-based treatment and empathy for their condition – not stigma.”

The documentary, produced for the RCP by New Leaf Video, will be available to watch for free on RCP’s website.

The RCP is calling for a National Obesity Prescription for England to improve care and reduce prevalence. This includes the national delivery of effective weight management interventions to prevent people developing serious illness.