Obesity will cost Bristol £270 million each year
More people than ever before in the Bristol area are obese or overweight.
Within the next two years it will cost the local NHS £270million per year to treat conditions related to the excess weight – the equivalent of £261 for each person living in the former Avon area.
The Department of Health has released figures which estimate the cost of treating diseases and conditions linked to being overweight or obese for the first time ever.
They found that in the former Avon area treating conditions related to weight including heart disease, diabetes and cancer cost a total of £261.9m last year and looks set to rise to £290.8m in 2015 if the issue is not dealt with.
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The cost was almost as much as the entire NHS budget for North Somerset for 2007 to 2008.
It was about two-thirds of the projected cost for the new Southmead Hospital, suggested to cost a total of £274m, and could pay the basic annual salaries of about 11,300 newly qualified nurses in the city.
Nationally, the cost of being overweight or obese costs the NHS £4.2billion in 2007, and this could rise to £6.3bn in 2015.
Conditions in overweight and obese people in Bristol accounted for £111.6m in 2007, and estimates suggest it will rise to £123.9m in 2015.
In Bath and North East Somerset, overweight and obese patients were costing the NHS £44.1m a year, rising to £49m by 2015. In North Somerset, the cost is expected to rise from £51.4m to £57.1m a year by 2015, and in South Gloucestershire, from £54.8m to £60.8m.
Primary Care Trusts – which pay for treatment – are working to tackle obesity across the Bristol area by teaching youngsters about healthy eating in schools and encouraging more people to walk or cycle.
In Bristol there is a healthy schools programme to help children understand the importance of eating healthily, people are encouraged to be active through cycling initiatives and other schemes, and there are sessions for overweight children and their families to have fun while developing healthier attitudes.
People can also be referred to slimming classes by their GPs in a scheme, which is also operated in the Bath region, along with a pedometer programme and cooking schemes.
In North Somerset there are community cafes with exercise classes to ensure elderly people are eating well, as well as infant nutrition information and fruit and veg stalls in a healthy living centre.
Among the work in South Gloucestershire are walking programmes, an exercise-on-prescription scheme and projects to encourage healthy eating among youngsters.
Bristol South MP and Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "Obesity is the biggest health challenge we face – every year 9,000 people die prematurely.
"And many people simply just don't know that being overweight can lead to major health problems including heart disease and cancer."
Meanwhile, a gene associated to increased appetite has been discovered by experts in Bristol.
The research from the Children of the 90s study has shed more light on last year's discovery of a gene linked to obesity.
By looking at the diet diaries of 3,600 youngsters involved in the Bristol programme, scientists discovered that those children with a variant type of the FTO gene – which had already been associated with increased body weight – were more likely to consume more calories, and often through fatty foods.
The difference in daily calorie intake noted by researchers was small, but they said it may have more impact over the course of a lifetime.