This month, we have been discussing some of the trends that are set to define our industry in 2013. In one way or the other, every single post we have shared with you this year includes a reference to one of the most challenging health issues of our time: Obesity. Whether we talk about the fragmentation of healthcare systems around the world or the continuing rise of family-based services within the spa industry, the current obesity problem offers a business opportunity that could push our industry further down the prevention road.
In this article, we will take a look at the dramatic scenario surrounding obesity in the UK, the main structural obstacle that prevents healthcare systems from finding solutions to the problem, and some of the best actions we can take to start changing the current situation. Let’s take a closer look.
A Dramatic Scenario
A recent article written by Jane Croft on the Financial Times (NHS urged to improve obesity services) provides a good picture of the dramatic situation regarding obesity in the UK. According to it, “the UK has the second-highest prevalence of obesity in the world, with a quarter of all adults classed as obese, costing the NHS about £ 5 billion a year.”
The article, which is based on the Action on Obesity report elaborated by the Royal College of Physicians, highlights the problem with an irony that affects the NHS itself. In fact, out of the 70,000 NHS employees who are obese, only 15% seek medical advice on this. Along those lines, the report describes as “inadequate” the existing training for health services staff.
Just like all the countries that face this epidemic, childhood obesity is particularly serious in the UK. According to the article, “among 10- to 11- year olds in the UK, 17 per cent of girls and 20 per cent of boys are obese.” In practical terms, there is not a single healthcare system in the world that can cope for too long with a similar human and financial burden.
A Structural Obstacle
There are several factors that have increased the negative impact of the current epidemic. However, one of the biggest variables is the lack of capacity to acknowledge the problem. In fact, obesity has never been considered a serious issue. All the contrary, this problem has been very often overlooked by healthcare systems all around the world.
This institutional ‘indifference’ towards obesity has much to do with the prevailing reactive approach towards health that still exists among healthcare systems around the world. By waiting for people to develop chronic diseases before they get treated, healthcare systems have neglected the role that prevention plays in the control of obesity.
Actions To Take
In spite of the structural obstacle we just mentioned, the need for change is challenging traditional ways of doing things. We are facing a dramatic scenario that requires new and comprehensive approaches based on prevention, innovation and cross-collaboration.
Jane Croft highlights the imperative of improving obesity services in the UK. Some of the channels to accomplish that goal include things like creating multidisciplinary teams to cover severe and complex obesity all over the country, assigning each NHS with a lead doctor focusing on obesity, appointing a public official to coordinate obesity strategies, and improving training and education for doctors and health staff.
As per our previous post on childhood obesity, we are convinced spas and wellness centres can play a huge role in the elaboration of prevention-based strategies aimed at tackling obesity. We have the opportunity to rebrand ourselves as valuable providers of solutions based on prevention, wellness and healthy lifestyles. We strongly believe the fight against obesity will shape the future of our business for years to come.