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'Disturbing' failure to address male obesity

The Men's Health Forum has welcomed the government announcement of more money to tackle obesity but is disappointed that there was no directive with regard to gender.

Public health minister Melanie Johnson has said that healthcare professionals in England will receive £3 million of extra government funding help in the fight to tackle obesity. The new money will be split amongst the nine English regions, with the funding targeted at Primary Care Trusts in the country's most deprived areas.

MHF president Dr Ian Banks said: 'The failure to address the issue of gender is deeply disturbing. The government has again made no attempt to recognise that the issue of men's health needs specific, targeted action.

'For the past few years the Men's Health Forum has been trying to get across the message that it is vital for the government and health authorities to encourage men themselves to take action. The government appears to accept our view, but is repeatedly failing to follow this through. We need a national men's health policy to tackle the particular needs of men. The MHF would like to see Primary Care Trusts address this. We need more health promotion initiatives specifically targeted at men.'

The proportion of men who are obese has more than trebled since 1980.

Melanie Johnson said: 'We can't force people to be healthy nor tell them how to lead their lives. What we can do is provide them with the information, advice and support to make their own choices. And this job starts with the healthcare professionals. That is why we have announced £3 million to make sure they receive the necessary training to not only get people thinking about the things they eat and how to be more active, but to support them in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.'

The government cited research showing that some healthcare professionals, including GPs, are uncomfortable about raising the issue of weight with patients and are not confident on the advice they should be giving — especially on physical activity. The research also found they were not aware of the services they can refer people to for weight loss.

As a result, a directory will be produced to give Primary Care Trusts an idea of the different types of training courses available for obesity prevention and management. The directory will continue to expand as more training resources become available.

One of the examples included in the directory will be 'The Counterweight Programme' — a course run by experienced dieticians that offers nurses and GPs training and support over a six month period. Following an initial session the training staff make fortnightly visits to surgeries — helping nurses and GPs to test their new skills out on the job.

A list of evaluation criteria is also being developed to help Primary Care Trusts assess the suitability of training resources inline with their local obesity and healthcare professional training needs. Training resources in this field can vary from guidance on ways to encourage physical activity amongst patients through to training on making behavioural changes.

Page created on January 5th, 2005

Page updated on December 1st, 2009