More of the city’s adults are overweight or obese than almost anywhere else in England, according to Government figures as it launches a strategy to slim down the nation’s waistlines.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who says he struggles with his own weight – has announced a range of measures to help people shed the pounds, including a ban on some junk food promotions and stricter advertising controls.
Now the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are being encouraged by a new local NHS healthy living campaign to “eat well, sleep well and move more”.
It comes after a Public Health England report found being overweight or obese can dramatically increase the risk of being admitted to hospital or dying from Covid-19.
Supporting the new national Better Health – Let’s Do This campaign launched by the Prime Minister, BMI Can Do It is an exciting new movement developed specifically for the local community to support their journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
Dr Jessica Randall-Carrick, a local GP and lead for Obesity and Diabetes at NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), explains: “We all know our shoe size, our clothes size and our height, but most people don’t know their BMI.
“The single best thing you can do for your health, and for the NHS, is reduce your BMI if yours is too high – so knowing your BMI is a crucial first step.
“If you have a higher than recommended BMI then you are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, cancer, or having a stroke or heart attack. We also know that you are at greater risk of serious health consequences if you contract COVID-19, which is why we want to help encourage people to join our movement to eat well, sleep well and move more.”
A new study published by Public Health England has found that for people with a BMI of 25 to 40 their risk of death from Covid-19 increases by 40 per cent, and for those with a BMI of over 40 it increases by 90 per cent, compared to those of a healthy BMI. When looking at intensive care units during the Covid-19 pandemic, 7.9 per cent of critically ill patients with Covid-19 had a BMI of over 40 compared to 2.9 per cent of the general population.
Dr Randall-Garrick continued: “We know it’s not always easy, but by taking those first steps towards a healthier lifestyle you will have a positive impact on your health. That’s why we are asking everyone to say BMI Can Do It and get involved today.”
PHE figures show 71 per cent of adults in Peterborough were classed as overweight or obese in 2018-19, the latest period for which data is available – that’s way above the national average of 62 per cent and an increase on the previously recorded figure.
It was also well above the average of 63 per cent for the East of England region. In Cambridgeshire as a whole 62.1 per cent of people are overweight and over 40,000 people in our area have Type 2 Diabetes, a type of diabetes that
can be managed and even go into remission through positive lifestyle changes.
Separate PHE figures show that nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of four to five year olds in Peterborough were overweight or obese in the 2018-19 academic year.
This rose to 37 per cent for those heading for secondary school in Year 6.
The movement sets out a range of challenges for people to undertake individually, among groups of friends or work colleagues. They are easy to follow and don’t require any specialist equipment or gym membership and are suitable for everyone, from those starting out on the healthy living journey to those already undertaking regular exercise. They focus on eating well, sleeping well and moving more, and are combined with a range of support tips and tools to help people join the movement.
Driven by the NHS and supported by a range of local partners, BMI Can Do It is designed to help people get healthier and happier over the coming months.
The movement is part of a wider programme of activity supported by an investment of up to £1 million by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, which includes specialist services delivered via the NHS for those who need further support to manage their weight or Type 2 Diabetes.
Dr Gary Howsam, local GP and Chair of the CCG added: “Never before have we invested so much time and resource into improving the health of our local community by supporting them to make positive lifestyle changes. By working together as a local health and social care system we can really make a difference to the lives of so many local people – helping to improve their mental and physical wellbeing at the same time as protecting the NHS. I’d encourage everyone to join the movement today and join me on one of our challenges.”
You can join the movement by visiting www.bmicandoit.co.uk or by following on social media @BMICanDoIt on Instagram and Twitter, Find it on Facebook by searching for BMI Can Do It or the hashtag #BMICanDoIt.
The campaign is designed to encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices, while recognising the many and varied challenges people can face whilst making such a change. The campaign will develop and grow over the coming months.
Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, board of science chairwoman at the British Medical Association, said obesity can have a “devastating” impact on people’s health, including the increased risk from the coronavirus.
She added: “As the Government’s new strategy recognises, this has been a real wake-up call for the nation, and it’s imperative that we use this opportunity to make changes for good, not only for society today, but also for generations to come.”
Katharine Jenner, campaign director at charity Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, said: “We are delighted that the Government has finally recognised that these huge food and drink companies have not been acting in our best interests when they advertise and discount their heavily processed, high in fat, salt and sugar, food and drinks.”
But she said it was a “missed opportunity” not to introduce mandatory targets on removing sugar and salt calories from products and that it was “absurd” the soft drinks levy – a tax on soft drinks – was not extended to other sugary edibles.
The Prime Minister’s obesity strategy includes:
○ Barring shops from pushing “buy one, get one free” promotions on unhealthy products.
○ Ending junk food adverts on television and online before the 9pm watershed
○ Forcing restaurants and takeaways with more than 250 employees to add calorie labels to menus
○ Expanding NHS weight management services and its Diabetes Prevention Programme
Mr Johnson said: “Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier.
“If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS.”