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GPs to play key role in fighting obesity

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Public Health Minister Caroline Flint has announced the publication of new practical tools for GPs and other health professionals to help patients lose weight and improve their health.

The Care Pathway for the Management of Overweight and Obesity is part of the Your Weight, Your Health series. It will provide primary care practitioners with information on how they can tackle the subject of obesity and being overweight with patients.

The series also includes a self-help booklet for patients, offering information on how to lose weight through better diet and exercise.

Caroline Flint said: “Most people know they should eat more fruit and vegetables and exercise more, but sometimes they need a nudge in the right direction to get them on the road to improving their health.

“GPs and other health professionals have a key role to play in this process. They have the early opportunity to broach issues of weight and obesity with their patients, and, if their patients have children, they can influence how parents deal with overweight children.

“But this isn't about telling people what to do. It's about supporting them in making changes to their lifestyles that will improve their health and the health of their children.”

The government has also launched its Obesity Bulletin – a joint publication by the Health, Education and Skills and the Culture, Media and Sport departments.

Targeting obesity leads in primary care trusts, strategic health authorities, local authorities, regional government offices and other government departments, the bulletin is designed to communicate the latest developments and good practice in the government’s obesity programme.

This follows the Prime Minister’s announcement of the new Small Change, Big Difference initiative, which aims to show people how they can improve their future health and wellbeing by making small, easily achievable changes to their lifestyles – for example, getting off the bus a stop earlier or eating an extra piece of fruit or serving of vegetables a day.

The initiative is based on research from Addenbrooke’s hospital published last week, which shows that even small changes can start improving health and turning back the clock.

The research – by Professor Kay-tee Khaw, from the Cambridge University School of Clinical Medicine at Addenbrooke's Hospital – shows the impact dietary changes and increased physical activity can have on major causes of death and ill health like cancer and cardio vascular disease.

The study – which looked at more than 30,000 people aged from 45 to 79 years old based in Norfolk – revealed that while eating the recommended five-a-day portions of fruit or vegetables could give an individual the life expectancy of someone three to four years younger, even one additional serving would increase your chances of staying alive longer.

The results for increasing physical activity were similar. Even very moderate amounts of physical activity at work and during leisure time can add up to three years to an individual’s life expectancy.

Khaw concluded that, taken together, improved diet and increased physical activity – as well as stopping smoking – could add up to 11-12 years to an individual's life expectancy. Details: www.dh.gov.uk

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Public Health Minister Caroline Flint has announced the publication of new practical tools for GPs and other health professionals to help patients lose weight and improve their health.
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