How effective are interventions at reducing socioeconomic inequalities in obesity among children and adults? Two systematic reviews

National Institute for Health Research, January 2015

The objective of this study was to systematically review the effectiveness of interventions (individual, community and societal) in reducing socioeconomic inequalities in obesity among (1) children aged 0–18 years (including prenatal) and (2) adults aged ≥18 years, in any setting, in any country, and (3) to establish how such interventions are organised, implemented and delivered through a systematic review of the literature.

Of 56,967 papers of inequalities in obesity in children, 76 studies (85 papers) were included, and of 70,730 papers of inequalities in obesity in adults, 103 studies (103 papers) were included. These studies suggested that interventions that aim to prevent, reduce or manage obesity do not increase inequalities. For children, there was most evidence of effectiveness for targeted school-delivered, environmental and empowerment interventions. For adults, there was most evidence of effectiveness for primary care-delivered tailored weight loss and community-based weight loss interventions, at least in the short term among low-income women. There were few studies of appropriate design that could be included on societal-level interventions, a clear limitation of the evidence base found.

The reviews have found some evidence of interventions with the potential to reduce SES inequalities in obesity and that obesity management interventions do not increase health inequalities. More experimental studies of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions (particularly at the societal level) to reduce inequalities in obesity, particularly among adolescents and adult men in the UK, are needed.

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Tackling the causes and effects of obesity

Local Government Association, January 2015

This report argues that health problems associated with being overweight or obese cost the country £5 billion per year, with numbers of people with obesity predicted to more than double in the next 40 years. It warns that councils do not have enough money in their public health budgets to properly tackle obesity once mandatory services such as sexual health and drug and alcohol services have been paid for. The report calls for a fifth of existing VAT raised on sweets, crisps, takeaway food and sugary drinks to go to boost council-run grassroots initiatives with a proven track record, such as leisure activities and health awareness campaigns.

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Inactivity ‘kills more than obesity’

BBC News, 15 January 2015

A lack of exercise could be killing twice as many people as obesity in Europe, a 12-year study of more than 300,000 people suggests.

University of Cambridge researchers said about 676,000 deaths each year were down to inactivity, compared with 337,000 from carrying too much weight….

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Overcoming obesity: an initial economic analysis

King’s Fund Health Management and Policy Alert, 1 December 2014

McKinsey & Company – 
This discussion paper brings together a range of case studies and examples of obesity interventions from around the world and presents them with an initial assessment of their cost-effectiveness.

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Identification, assessment, and management of overweight and obesity: summary of updated NICE guidance

British Medical Journal, 27 November 2014

Newly available evidence on very low calorie diets and on the effectiveness of bariatric surgery in people with recent onset type 2 diabetes and a lack of clear guidance on follow-up after bariatric surgery have led to the need to revise the original National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline from 2006. This article summarises the most recent recommendations from NICE on managing overweight and obese patients.  

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Fifth of millennium babies ‘obese’ by age of 11

BBC News, 27 November 2014

One in five children born at the start of the millennium was obese by the age of 11, according to a major study.  The Millennium Cohort Study, which follows 13,000 children born in the UK, showed a sudden surge in obesity between the ages of seven and 11…

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Careless Eating Costs Lives

2020health, 12 October 2014

A new report released by 2020health calls for a cross-sector 5-10 year strategy to tackle the obesity crisis, covering both education and regulation.  The report, ‘Careless eating costs lives’, grasps the extent of the obesity explosion and sets out the essential responses to halting progression and reversing the drastic effects of overweight on individual health, employment, social care and the wider economy.

Click here for further information and to download the full report.