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RCP calls for obesity to be recognised as a disease

RCP calls for obesity to be recognised as a disease

Publication date: Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Royal College of Physicians is calling for obesity to urgently be recognised as a disease by government and the broader health sector, and warning that until this happens its prevalence is unlikely to be reduced. According to Public Health England, in 2015 63% of adults were classed as being overweight or obese. In 2015 to 2016, 19.8% of children aged 10 to 11 were obese and a further 14.3% were overweight.

The RCP wants to see obesity recognised as an ongoing chronic disease to allow the creation of formal healthcare policies to improve care both in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals, and so that significant and far-reaching preventative measures can be put in place. As well as encouraging prevention, treatment and greater empathy with patients, the RCP wants to see a change to public discourse about obesity, so that those with the condition are no longer blamed for it.

Professor Andrew Goddard, RCP president, said, “It is important to the health of the nation that we remove the stigma associated with obesity. It is not a lifestyle choice caused by individual greed but a disease caused by health inequalities, genetic influences and social factors. It is governments, not individuals, which can have an impact on the food environment through regulation and taxation, and by controlling availability and affordability. Governments can also promote physical activity by ensuring that facilities are available to local communities, and through legislation and public health initiatives.”

RCP recommendations:

  • Obesity should be recognised as a complex progressive chronic multifactorial disease.
  • In order to improve their health and increase life expectancy people affected by obesity should have access to the appropriate treatment for their disease stage in the form of lifestyle measures, pharmacological intervention and/or bariatric surgery.
  • Defining obesity as a disease does not detract from the need to tackle the societal causes of obesity.
  • Prevention and societal intervention remain important aspects of this problem. However, recognising obesity as a disease will provide clarity for healthcare professionals, prioritise access to treatment, reduce the stigma surrounding the condition, and crucially encourage governmental action to prioritise strategies to reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK. 


More information

RCP call for obesity to recognised as a disease, presented to the RCP council 17 July 2018 https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/rcp-calls-obesity-be-recognised-disease



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Category: Have You Heard
Edition: Volume 4, Number 1, BJPCN Online 2019

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