'Growing problem' of obesity in Suffolk's deprived communities to be addressed
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A "stark, growing problem" of obesity in Suffolk's deprived areas is to be addressed by a new hospital-led taskforce.
The taskforce comes after figures revealed the number of obese patients at East Suffolk and North East Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT)'s Suffolk hospitals was 30% higher than the national average – with children living in deprived areas a particular concern.
Of all admissions to the hospitals between April 1 2020 and March 4 this year, 2,168 people per 100,000 had a primary or secondary diagnosis of obesity, compared to the national figure of 1,649.
Essex on the other hand was below average, with a figure of 1,469 per 100,000.
Those figures, the trust said, are much more prevalent in areas of deprivation – with obesity-related admissions being around 50% more likely for patients from the most deprived areas compared to more affluent parts of the region.
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Previous studies by Healthy Suffolk have found the county follows national trends – with particularly high rates among communities in Mildenhall, Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe and some areas of Ipswich and Lowestoft.
Among the Inequalities Working Group's roles include encouraging people to "open up" and start conversations – following the "make every contact count" behavioural approach.
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ESNEFT chief medical officer Dr Angela Tillett said the problem has been "magnified" by the pandemic.
She said: "The areas where we felt we could support our patients and communities best is with an initial focus on healthy eating and weight management, recognising that many people have not been able to be as active as they could be.
"We recognise this (healthy eating) is a really challenging area and we recognise that during lockdown many of us have gained a few pounds – it is a sensitive topic, but we do as health professionals need to think of an appropriate way to help our patients and have these conversations.
"It is important to recognise this isn't a growing problem in terms of the proportion of our patients who are just a little overweight, but significantly overweight.
"It is a legacy thing as well, our young people are also presenting being significantly overweight and the associated health problems, including fatty litter, cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
"We know we can intervene and we can improve the situation. That is where our duty lies as health professionals – to have those conversations and give our communities the tools to help with this growing problem."