AHP leadership in the fight against obesity
Linda Hindle, Chair of DOM UK [Dietitians in Obesity Management]
The obesity epidemic is a societal problem which will only be solved by simultaneous action at many levels and by a wide range of partners. AHPs are rising to this challenge but we need to do more and faster if we are to tackle this ‘ever-growing’ problem. Not surprisingly, dietitians, with their focus on food, are at the forefront of the fight against the nation’s obesity epidemic. DOM UK is a specialist group of the British Dietetic Association dedicated to supporting health professionals to prevent and treat obesity. Members of DOM UK are leading multi-agency strategies to tackle adult and childhood obesity, providing expert specialist input to bariatric surgery teams, informing national guidance and policies, supporting the provision of clear evidence based information to the public plus a range of local innovative programmes designed to change behaviours and improve the obesogenic environment.
However, this work is set against a backdrop of the commercial profits associated with promoting consumption of unhealthy foods and then promoting participation in unhealthy diets: a money making vicious circle with the ultimate outcome of poor health.
So how can we show leadership and achieve change in this environment? Two excellent examples include:
The British Dietetic Association’s annual round up of the Top 5 Worst Celebrity Diets to Avoid in 2014 This is always a popular media story and provides a national platform to promote good old healthy eating as the best way to control weight.
DOM UKs partnership with the Children’s Food Campaign to run Junk Free Checkouts Campaign launched last September, the aim of the campaign is to encourage retailers to stop positioning junk food at the checkout where we know it increases opportunistic purchases and increases pester power from children. The excellent media coverage has already seen results with some supermarkets pledging to change practice. We need to keep the pressure on though so please support the campaign by giving out checkout test cards to your local retailer (pass or fail) or sending off a letter to the supermarket HQ to let them know your thoughts on this issue. The campaign website makes it easy for you to support the campaign.
Of course dietitians are not the only AHPs leading the fight against obesity, physiotherapists and occupational therapists are increasingly involved in this agenda. We all need to do more otherwise our health services will be crippled by the cost of treating the complications of obesity.
3 things we can all do in 2014 include:
- Look after your own health: make time for activity, be less sedentary and eat a healthy diet
- Give your children as many opportunities for activity and healthy eating as possible
- Raise the issue of unhealthy weight with your patients and encourage them to access support services