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BMI linked to work absenteeism, NHS expands obesity and type 2 diabetes programme

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Wider rollout of NHS soup and shake diet to help 10,000+ with type 2 diabetes and obesity

A recent study presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Venice sheds light on the detrimental effects of obesity on workplace absenteeism and economic productivity.

The analysis, encompassing data from millions of workers across Europe, reveals a direct correlation between body mass index (BMI) and the likelihood of taking sick leave.

According to the study, obese individuals are up to twice as likely to take time off work due to health issues compared to those of a healthy weight.

The increased sick notes among obese individuals is attributed to various complications associated with obesity, including joint pain, diabetes, depression, and heart disease.

In the United Kingdom, where obesity rates are among the highest in Europe, the impact of obesity on workplace absenteeism is particularly pronounced.

The study indicates that soaring obesity levels contribute significantly to the country’s record sickness levels, with approximately 2.8 million people currently signed off work due to health issues.

It underscores the urgency of implementing anti-obesity measures to promote economic growth and reduce the economic impact of obesity-related health conditions.

Furthermore, the rising sick note culture in the UK, characterised by a doubling in the number of sick notes issued by the NHS over the past decade, poses a significant economic burden, as per the The Sunday Times. 

The estimated cost of rising sick leave is a staggering £33 billion annually in lost productivity.

In response to these findings, prime minister Rishi Sunak has announced reforms aimed at addressing the “sick-note culture,” emphasising the need to tackle obesity as a root cause of health problems driving individuals out of the workforce.

NHS ‘Soup and Shake Diets’ to tackle obesity epidemic in 42 local health areas 

The NHS’s rollout of “soup and shake” diets as part of efforts to tackle obesity and reverse type 2 diabetes represents a significant step towards addressing the obesity epidemic.

Under the new expansion plan, the NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme will double its capacity, benefiting over 10,000 individuals struggling with type 2 diabetes and excess weight or obesity.

This national rollout will cover 42 local health areas, ensuring accessibility for eligible patients across the country.

Patients referred by the GPs will be given diet replacement products like milkshakes and soups with 800 to 900 calories per day upto 3 months along with support from diet coaches and clinicians to tackle obesity and related conditions.

According to The Telegraph, more than 50,000 people are set to sign up for the obesity programme in the coming 5 years costing an average of £1,000 per head for the weight loss plan.

Health chiefs are investing £13 million this year to support the programme’s expansion, and since the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, local NHS teams have been given £36 million by NHS England to help restore their diabetes services to pre-pandemic levels.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, emphasised the life-changing potential of the programme, stating that the new rollout “can be truly life-changing in helping reverse the effects of the condition.”

Emphasising on holistic approach to tackling obesity and type 2 diabetes, the NHS National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, Dr Clare Hambling said:

“Our NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme, sits alongside the success of our world-leading Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme – which independent evaluation has shown to successfully reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than a third for people who complete the programme.”

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