The United Kingdom ranks as one of the most obese nations in Europe and its increasing rate of overweight and obesity has been described as the number one threat to health and wellbeing. Eat Well Be Active is Cheshire West and Chester's partnership approach to maintaining a healthy weight. In developing the framework, we have taken a life course approach (from conception through to older age) that includes all of our residents. At the same time, we recognise the need to target those groups who are more at risk of becoming overweight or obese. We want to increase the number of children and adults with a healthy weight, promoting healthy behaviours and keeping people well for longer.
Although overweight and obesity are common among all social groups, the rate increases with social disadvantage. This reflects the 'socioeconomic gradient' in health, illustrating how population health worsens as deprivation and poverty increases. In the UK, socioeconomic inequalities have increased since the 1960s and this has led to wider inequalities in both child and adult obesity, especially amongst women and girls.
Overweight and obesity and their related diseases cost the National Health Service more than £5 billion each year and this cost is expected to increase dramatically in the future. If left unchecked, by 2050, the cost is estimated to reach £9.7 billion. However, it is not just the cost to the NHS that needs to be considered, there are other associated costs. In 2015, the cost of obesity to society was estimated at £27 billion, including £352 million to Social Care (in extra hours of help per year), and a spend on obesity medications of £13.3 million. Physical inactivity costs the NHS £7.4 billion per year but the total cost to the wider economy is estimated at £20 billion.
Eating a nutritionally balanced diet and being more active is crucial to reducing levels of overweight and obesity and ensuring everyone has the best chance to live a long and healthy life. Overweight and obesity can lead to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers. As well as reducing overweight and obesity, there are a range of other health benefits associated with eating a healthy, balanced diet and undertaking regular physical activity. Evidence shows that those who meet the recommended levels of physical activity and healthy eating reduce their risk of developing common, obesity-related conditions.
At the other end of the spectrum, being underweight can also damage your health. Malnutrition (being underweight or having a poor quality diet) can contribute to a weakened immune system, fragile bones and feeling tired. Malnutrition in children can affect growth, development and lead to poor concentration. Similarly malnutrition affects older adults too and is a growing area of concern.
This strategy and the resulting action plan will aim to address issue of malnutrition and those who are deemed to be food insecure, being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
It is now widely known that for every individual, no matter what their stage of life, being regularly active can benefit health in a range of ways. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, accounting for 1 in 17 deaths. In the UK, it is responsible for one in six deaths. People who have a physically active lifestyle have a 20-35 per cent lower risk of heart disease and stroke compared to those who have a sedentary lifestyle with minimal day to day activity. Regular physical activity is also associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, colon and breast cancer and with improved mental health. In older adults physical activity is associated within creased ability to function well with daily tasks, maintaining independent lives for longer.