The Department of Health has today launched two separate public consultations on the development of a new Regional Obesity Management Service and a new Obesity Strategic Framework.
Obesity is a significant public health issue in Northern Ireland, with the latest Health Survey NI data showing that 65% of adults and 26% of children are living with obesity or overweight. Having obesity can reduce life expectancy, increase the risk of a range of health conditions including heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes, and can have a significant detrimental impact on mental health. The annual cost of obesity to society in Northern Ireland is estimated at £500m annually.
The Department is inviting the public to share their views on a new Obesity Strategic Framework - ‘Healthy Futures’ which aims to create the conditions that enable and support people to improve their diet and participate in more physical activity and reduce the risk of related harm for those living with overweight and obesity.
Alongside the Framework, the Department is also asking for views on the development of a prototype Regional Obesity Management Service which will enable people living with obesity here to access treatment and specialist support that is not currently available to them, including weight loss medication and/or weight loss (bariatric) surgery, in line with clinical assessment of need.
Peter May, Department of Health Permanent Secretary said: “Supporting and enabling people to improve their health and wellbeing is a key priority for the Department of Health. Improving people’s health will enhance their lives, as well as reducing the demand on our health and social care services, making us economically more productive and helping individuals and our population to become more resilient.
Mr May continued: “The latest data shows that we are seeing increasing levels of obesity in our population and that levels are consistently higher in those who are most deprived. This not only underlines the importance of taking a whole system approach to addressing obesity, but also demonstrates the need to address the wider social and economic determinants of health linked to deprivation and opportunity. It’s imperative that we take action now and I would encourage people to have their say on the proposed interventions.”
Both the new Regional Obesity Management Service (ROMS) and Obesity Strategic Framework consultation documents are available on the Department of Health website Consultations | Department of Health (health-ni.gov.uk)
Deadline to respond to both consultations is 5pm on Friday 16 February 2024.
Notes to editors:
- A Fitter Future For All was the department’s 10-year strategic framework for obesity prevention, first published in 2012. For the past 18 months, work has been underway to co-produce a successor strategy, ‘Healthy Futures’, aligning with existing and developing strategies on cancer prevention, diabetes, food and physical activity and bringing together obesity prevention and obesity treatment in an overarching, cross-departmental strategy. A project board involving health professionals, academics, the community and voluntary sector, other Government Departments, and importantly those with lived and/or living experience of the issue, has lead the development of the consultation document. Open seminars were held to get the views of key stakeholders, and specific research was commissioned to support the process.
- The Department proposes to establish a new clinical treatment pathway aimed at increasing access to care, whilst at the same time prioritising those patients who stand to benefit the most. This treatment pathway would complement existing public health measures to prevent and manage the disease of obesity. It is proposed that the new Regional Obesity Management Service be introduced as a prototype for an initial period of two years, and it is intended that, during that period, 100 bariatric surgeries will be delivered per annum, as well as the prescribing of weight loss medication.
- The annual cost of obesity to society in Northern Ireland is estimated at £500m annually. Source – R. Johnston (2023) “The Economic Impact of Smoking, Alcohol Consumption and Obesity in Northern Ireland”. This is available on the British Heart Foundation website.
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