There is an “urgent need” to address obesity levels in the UK, the Royal College of Physicians has warned, in response to findings that there is a clear link between obesity and higher death rates from Covid-19.
The report from the World Obesity Federation this week highlighted that 2.2 million of the 2.5 million deaths from Covid were in countries with high levels of overweight people.
Countries such as the UK, US and Italy, where more than 50% of adults are overweight, have had the biggest proportions of deaths linked to coronavirus, it added.
Professor Rachel Batterham, the college’s lead adviser on obesity, said this showed the link between high levels of obesity and deaths from Covid-19 in the UK was “indisputable”.
There was an “urgent need” to address the factors that lead so many people to be living with obesity, she warned.
“With 30% of Covid-19 hospitalisations in the UK directly attributed to overweight and obesity, and three quarters of all critically ill patients having overweight or obesity, the human and financial costs are high,” said Professor Batterham.
“If the government is serious about tackling the obesity crisis, it first needs to implement a cross-government strategy to address health inequalities, including providing access to weight management services for those who are struggling to manage their weight,” she added.
Separately, the government has said children, adults and families will be better supported to achieve and maintain a healthier weight through £100m of new government support.
The initiative from the Department of Health and Social Care will see more than £70m being invested into weight management services, which will be made available through the NHS and local councils.
This will enable up to 700,000 adults to have access to support to help them lose weight, including access to digital apps, weight management groups, individual coaches or specialist clinical support, the DHSC said.
The remaining £30m will be used to fund initiatives to help people maintain a healthy weight, including access to the free NHS 12-week weight loss plan app, it added.
The move follows the launch last year of a “Better Health” by prime minister Boris Johnson to encourage people to be more active and work to lose weight.
However, the think-tank The Social Market Foundation in December concluded this campaign had been ineffective and largely unsuccessful.