Introduction: The purpose of my project will be to ascertain specifically the impacts on our economy if the level of obesity continues to rise.
My report will focus on cost and impacts on obesity without going into depth on the medical side of obesity such as the causes and treatments however they will be mentioned briefly with a holistic view whilst mentioning costs and impacts. The level of obesity in the United Kingdom has swiftly stretched to an unprecedented high with one in every four adults suffering from it. It has also drastically increased with 68% of men and 55% of women were deemed as overweight. 26% of adults were classified as inactive (<30 minutes of activity conducted per day), one in five children in reception and one in three children in year 6 were again ranked as obese as of 2016. (There is little sign of this ascendant trend stopping, and undoubtedly it will have a substantial effect on our country. It will undesirably disturb the slowly recovering economy since the 2007/8 recession. The prominence on obesity as a health predicament has become more and more discernible over that past years. Calculating obesity is carried out via the use of BMI or body mass index which considers the height and weight.
Obesity cannot be classified as a stand-alone disease, it branches of too numerous other such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, high cholesterol and blood pressure to name a few. Literature review: The current extent of obesity in the United Kingdom is of an alarming nature. According to a government ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives’ strategy aiming to reduce obesity it is forecasted that by 2045-50, 60% of the population will be obese (Department of Health, 2008). Despite statistics intensifying the social cause of obesity must not be disregarded. This does not mean obesity is not an issue but being classed as obese is continuously changing over the years thus a larger number of people as placed into that category.
Gordon Brown introduced a ‘Healthy weight, healthy lives’ policy to attack the obesity catastrophe in 2008. Over 20 years the aim is to reduce obesity by certain levels they have categorised. To carry this out he planned to upsurge the access and opportunities to enable people to make healthy choices. From an economic side he planned to reduce the information gap between health experts and the public. This is an easy, relatively cheap (compared to other methods such as subsidisation and monetary policies) and effective method however there is always a time lag regarding the success of this method.
The time lag will depend on the current information currently available. Another issue raised with this policy is that assistance is required to make the right selections, for example the ability to pin point the cause of an individual obesity occurrence can significantly assist with the understanding of how to reduce their weight. Simply putting the information out there may not be simply enough. Expert critics within this field commented on the dependency on an individual’s confidence is essential thus more emphasis is required rather than a general focus on the obese population. Even with these criticisms, the report that was released two years later describes the level of rising obesity is slowly moving towards a plateau. Further to this method, during November 2008 the Department of Health announced and implemented the ‘Change4life’. Simply put it was a three-year drive and fight to increase the levels of those who ate healthy and the levels of active time per day.
In 2009 they released an advertisement where the use of cartoon characters was used to show alterations in their eating routines. The National audit office state that as you assess the number of individuals obese in age categories, there is a positive relationship between obesity rising as age increases. By firstly targeting the younger population successfully, it can play a domino effect as that generation will grow up with the correct and healthy mindset to reduced obesity with themselves and future generations. However, it was criticised by The Lancet, a weekly medical journal claiming the advert as being ‘too simple’ and ‘hypocritical’.
It was discovered the sponsors were Pepsi, but the aim of this advert was to try to deter the population from consuming products such as those Pepsi produce. These examples of what the government and its representatives have executed, shows that the chosen policies which are then implemented are down to how the problem is perceived, for example if it is a social, biological cause or is it due to prejudice and discrimination. This method was also suggested on ‘Good Morning Britain’ by Dr Hilary Jones (GMB).
He made evident that obesity often starts in the childhood period and that the NHS and the government are aware of the issue and its causes but simply doing something about it, in an active manner is crucial to the nations wellbeing and productivity. Another interesting interpretation of the rise in obesity is said to be due to an increase in the social disparity (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010) Due to this, policies that target the individuals who are categorised within the lower classes and increase the availability of opportunities presented to them can be said to be more successful as opposed to just advertising healthy eating. Another further attempt was made in 2011 by Chief Medical Officers across the country.
They revised and executed fresh approaches to get the public to increase the amount spent on physical activity. A lifelong development method was created which comprised of procedures for the younger members of the public. This method was thought of to hide the actual seriousness of this problem and to create perception that something is being done to deal with the issue. Those of a lower class socially are limited to what lifestyle decisions as for example they can make as they may not be able to afford a gym membership. (UCL Institute of Health Equity, 2012) commented on this report and spoke about those individuals from poorer backgrounds find it difficult to support themselves so what will encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle as they felt this method the Chief Medical Officers had made available was just placing the obligation of conducting exercise on the person themselves. A non-government policy was also put in place in introduced in May 2010 called the ‘New Obesity Campaign UK.
‘ The approach which the embarked upon was to improve the rapport the public have with food. Then in turn they inspired and cultured people on how to lose weight. They set up a website where individuals register their interest and in turn receive advice.
Moreover, they put on seminars where a health nutrition counsellor talked about weight loss. However, the use of an interview with Miss Universe 2005 unfortunately did not bode well as a realistic example for the obese individuals. She has no dire need to lose any weight and individuals feedback suggested that it would have been better to interview a previously obese person who now has overcome it and lost the weight. However, the website they had set up had a section of people’s positive stories where following this policy had resulted in successful weight loss. Though Borg et all (2002) highlighted that a common occurrence is individuals will put a proportion of the weight they lost, back on. This policy again led me to believe that this issue is more of a behavioural matter but by it offering one to one support and assistance it increases the likeness of being effective as non-government policies can be modified on individual needs compared to the comprehensive policies the government put into place. Though It can be said that government policies have more control and an authoritative approach compared to the those of a non-governmental nature.
Moving on to the costing issue regarding obesity, I have considered what costs occur due to obese patients to the NHS and there the Economy as the NHS is government funded. Illnesses associated to obesity such as diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease are some of the major and key costs directly related to obesity (NICE, 2017) Due to this, those affected have more time off work or increase their chances of early death. As a result, the economy is affected: due to the high absenteeism levels, firms and businesses productivity decreases as there are less employees available to work/ output is low. Due to the low output, prices increase to account for the profit levels they are used to and require ensuring they can continue to run as a business. These factors not only affect the firms and businesses across the UK but also put pressure on the UK government. They will start to receive less tax such as VAT or corporation tax for instance as output has decreased.
This in turn will increase their budget deficit as the amounts required to keep the country running overall. They will increase the amount borrowed to continue to fund the NHS to allow those affected by obesity are treated. However, there will be a time gap for this occur as recovering from obesity related medical conditions is an extremely difficult and long process. This theoretical case makes evident that the costs related to the obesity to the NHS and thus the UK economy signify a massive burden.
As the Department of health 2008 describe that the obese are one of the most rapidly growing sections of the UK population and other developed countries around the world. This example and the statement made by the department of health have been further considered via my primary research, which will be discussed further on in this report, as the costings of obesity to the NHS and government specifically are not published online. Another factor that aids the NHS is the allocation of taxes and its revenue. However, currently there is a loss in the publics welfare due to the rise in taxes. In economic terms this is known as deadweight loss – ‘The loss in producer and consumer surplus due to an inefficient level of production perhaps resulting from market failure or government failure’ (Tutor2u, 2015) It is believed that roughly 10% of the reduced years on people’s life and 9% of the costs are due to the detrimental effects of obesity and the state of being overweight. In depth specific intervention is needed, (WHO, 2005) say that the chance of getting colon cancer is significantly higher when a person is obese, they went on to also comment on the lack of cancer screening programmes and the lack of awareness of obesity increasing the chance of suffering from cancer. This current example of an epidemic represents market failure. Economicshelp defines marker failure as: ‘This occurs when there is an inefficient allocation of resources in a free market’ It can occur due to a wide range of reasons but in this case, it caused holistically by, the over consumption of negative externalities, the use and consumption of demerit goods and the inequality of information between producers, consumers and the government to name the main factors.
Methods to deal with market failure are in abundance however each policy has its strengths and limitations especially since the policies have and will be needed on a national scale. The opportunity cost needs to be calculated (Opportunity cost measures the cost of any choice in terms of the next best alternative foregone (tutor2u)) and thus analyse and predict which macroeconomic objective will thrive due to the policy implemented and which objective may worsen. The UKs key macroeconomic objectives are; low inflation/prices remain stable (target is 2%, currently at 2.
9%), low unemployment rates, (currently at 4.3%), sustained economic growth and a balanced budget (currently we are in an estimated deficit of £18.2 billion) according to ukpublicspending, 2017. Currently the food industry is being controlled to guarantee food safety and thus in turn welfare of the public, however the need to extend the extent of this regulation is in dire need of occurring. Uk Public spending further commented on the need of using what information is available of the cost implications and to carry out research via investments to scrutinise how fiscal policies stimulate or discourage consumer spending along with the subsidisation of fruit and vegetables and supporting the need of healthy eating.
However, comments have been made by the government that the health policies that have been used and those that are in the pipeline are motivated by microeconomic objectives, but my extensive research proves otherwise as the argument can be made that the policies are influenced by macroeconomic targets as the costs will be greater in the long run compared to the long run as the by-products of obesity are long term also thus long-term treatment and after care is essential. This discrepancy has been clarified by my primary research which will be discussed later in my report. To round of my findings, it can be said that regardless of the disparagements of all the above government and non-government policies that have been implemented, it could be said that if further investment went into research and development they could be successful, if they are integrated and then executed. For example, analysing the policies it could be said the government focus on the younger generations as prevention methods and those of a non-government nature focus their resources and time on those who are already obese and are trying to reduce their weight a along with bettering their lifestyle choices. The government polices seem to be making some headway but for any substantial improvements and changes will not be evident until the years to come. It can also be said to successfully lose weight, using policies on its own will not occur as ultimately the will and poise of the individuals will allow the change to occur or not. This statement is backed up by Dovey who stated ‘individual tailored interventions’ are required for the obese. This led me to suggest that do policies need to be tailored to change the outlooks and mentalities of individuals for change to fully occur.
Considering all my research and analysing it, it has thrown up certain questions along with some factors I have not been able to get an in-depth answer or view without speaking to someone in person who is knowledgebase and experience in my chosen topic. As mentioned before I will be confirming whether the polices required to reduce the rise of obesity is inclined by micro or macroeconomic objectives, is obesity a significant issue compared to other medical issues. Further to those issues I will also be investigating: whether education and improving the information gaps are sufficient and are there any significant bodies or maybe even the government researching the cost success of obesity intercession methods.
I will be using the interviewees experience to my advantage and get a first-hand opinion and insight as to how obesity puts a strain on the NHS specifically. Further to this I will be considering his role in budget allocation within a hospital and whether firstly enough is provided and how it is allocated specifically to departments who treat obese patients and the problems that arise due to being obese.