How Can Healthcare Companies Help to Tackle Obesity?

The personal is now political – how can healthcare companies help to tackle obesity in the age of Covid?

For decades now, we’ve been aware that obesity shortens lives by making us more susceptible to heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Obesity rates in the UK are high, with 7 in 10 men and 6 in 10 women overweight, or obese. A worrying number of children are now living with obesity even before they start school, a condition which is likely to have an impact throughout their lives.

Obesity and Covid-19

Data gathered throughout the Covid-19 ‘peak’ in the UK demonstrates that there is a link between obesity and Covid-19 hospitalisation and deaths. Evidence cited by Public Health England shows that people testing positive with Covid-19, who are overweight, or living with obesity, are:

  • More likely to be admitted to hospital
  • More likely to be admitted to intensive care, and require advanced treatment
  • Potentially at higher risk of Covid-19 related death

The Government Obesity Strategy 2020

“These plans are ambitious and rightly so. Tackling obesity will help prevent serious illness and save lives.” Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE

Described as "one of the biggest health crises the country faces", the links to Covid have made obesity a priority for the present government. A new raft of measures has been designed to improve the health of the nation, lower the risk of Covid deaths for the population, and protect the NHS against a ‘second wave’.

The measures include a ban on TV adverts for unhealthy foods prior to 9pm, an end to ‘buy one get one free’ deals on unhealthy items, the listing of calories on menus, and a public comms campaign, including the use of apps, to encourage people to eat healthily, exercise and understand nutrition.

The Reaction From GPs

Having collected reactions from GPs to the government’s strategy, three distinct strands emerge:

  1. Access to Internet for Target Demographic. One GP we spoke to was clear that the patients he sees are from a deprived area, and are unlikely to have access to the internet, or phones. The app wouldn’t be appropriate to them, therefore. There was also concern that older people would be unlikely to use an app to help them lose weight weight, or eat more healthily.
  2. Effective Communications. In order to reach the government’s target demographic, a basic strategy such as a printed leaflet could be the best option. It should be easy to read, available in a number of different languages, and offer small simple changes people can remember. Maybe even a tear-off list – something that’s tailored to how life really is for most people.
  3. Fostering Engagement. For GPs the most effective way to approach obesity with patients is to have a supportive conversation that focuses on the positives that can easily be achieved. Often it’s a shock – like a heart attack, or Covid-19 – that ‘wakes people up to tackling their weight’. Then they need to have suggestions that are appropriate to their lives. "It’s not about running a marathon. It’s small changes. Like just going for a walk."

For Healthcare Companies – Simple is Best

Practical advice, like a free exercise programme that could be prescribed to people living with obesity, would be a great help. We know that people living in areas of social and economic deprivation are less motivated to lose weight, due to the range of anxieties they face each day. For them, simple solutions that cost nothing, presented in a familiar language, and in a format that is available to all, is by far the most effective approach.

About LDA Research

LDA Research was set up in 2011 by Lucy Doorbar. The close-knit, core team now works with a global network of trusted associates. LDA carries out qualitative research for medical and pharmaceutical clients, medical comms agencies, health market research agencies, management consultants and advertising agencies.

We specialise in qualitative research using a range of online and offline methodologies. Give us a call to find out more - 01525 861436