Oberon, Titania, and Puck with Fairies Dancing

Liverpool: The Make-Believe Approach to Obesity

Following in America’s footsteps, the UK applies something of a make-believe approach to dealing with obesity. With furrowed brow, policy makers acknowledge that obesity is undermining the health of the nation – not to mention the financial status of the vaunted National Health Service. The consequences of untreated obesity are multiplying so fast that it’s undeniable. But they steadfastly refuse to do anything meaningful to slow this disastrous cascade of health problems. In Liverpool, this ethos of make-believe for dealing with obesity has come into sharp view.

Funding Stripped for Liverpool’s Tier 3 Weight Management

The Liverpool City Council stripped funding from one of the best tier three centers for weight management in England. The Aintree University Hospital LOSS program serves the medical needs of 2,700 people with medically serious obesity. Another 2,300 are on the clinic’s waiting list.

Last month, thousands of these people received “the letter” informing them there will be no more care for them at this center. The letter advised them that when September comes, they should seek advice about self-care from two websites – NHS Change4Life and Live Your Life Well. Those sites offer vague advice about staying active and eating healthy.

This approach is guaranteed to be inadequate for the health needs of the patients dismissed by this action.

Exactly What Liverpool Does Not Need

EASO President Jason Halford was at the University of Liverpool for 20 years before taking his present post at Leeds. He described this decision as “incredibly worrying and shocking.”

The release this week of a dire report on the prospects for health in Liverpool does much to explain why this is such a bad decision. Liverpool Director of Public Health Matt Ashton issued the report, and said, “The findings are a stark and clear call for urgent action.” The report explains that obesity is a core problem:

“The key health issues facing children and young people within the next two decades are predicted to be mental health, obesity and child poverty.

“Compared to England, rates of children with excess weight (overweight and obesity combined) in Liverpool are significantly higher and are increasing at a
faster pace.”

Lip Service Only

As shocking as it is to see Liverpool shut down funding for one of the best obesity care programs in England at a time of crisis, it does not surprise us.

It continues a policy of hypocrisy, with the government talking about the seriousness of obesity, even announcing programs to address it, and then canceling the funding for them when the public isn’t looking.

Liverpool has short life expectancies driven by diseases that untreated obesity causes – ”type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver and respiratory disease and cancer” – all described in the Liverpool State of Health in the City report. The council claims it will shift to a focus that “stops people from gaining excess weight in the first place.” With high rates of obesity and overweight well-entrenched in Liverpool, this is a triumph of fantasy over reality.

In sum, it seems to be the very definition of insanity to cut funding for obesity care and ensure that the burden of these diseases will grow.

Click here for more on the Liverpool decision to cut funding for obesity care and here for the report on health in Liverpool. You can find a systematic review of tier three weight management services in the UK here. For perspective on 30 years of UK obesity policy, click here.

Oberon, Titania, and Puck with Fairies Dancing; illustration by William Blake / WikiArt

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January 14, 2024

One Response to “Liverpool: The Make-Believe Approach to Obesity”

  1. January 14, 2024 at 11:13 am, Allen Browne said:

    Yup – Bias and stigma still goes a long ways.