It is not often that I feel compelled to write an article exhibiting personal disdain about an item of pop culture. However, A certain song has been grinding me down for weeks now and the fact that it has remained at number one for another week has finally pushed me over the edge. The song irritates me due to the message it sends to a demography of people; undoing all of the hard work and educational messages that the medical and health & fitness industry has been throwing their way for years.
“All about that Bass”, for those of you who have not heard the song, features an overweight lady who walks us through an explanation of how she may not look like today’s popular image of beautiful, but, because she has “All the right junk in all the right places” she doesn’t care!
The most damaging part of the song is that the fact the video for the song carries the message that it is “ok” to be overweight (by choice). I am now going to explore the realities around what being obese actually means for the person and the people around them.
In 2014, the Health & Social Care Information Centre published a report covering the statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity & Diet for England. It stated that 24% of men and 25% of women were obese. That isn’t too bad your thinking? Couple that with the fact that a further 42% of men and 32% of women were overweight. That is a total of 66% of Men and 57% of women who are putting themselves at an increased risk of disease and illness.
Let me just expand on what I mean by disease and illness. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, in America, list the following as obesity-related ailments:
- Coronary Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Abnormal Blood Fats
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Sleep Apnea
- Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome
- Reproductive Issues for Women
At this point, the argument is usually “ok well surely this only affects them and so it is their choice”. Ok! I will indulge that argument. In the UK we have the National Health Service. (NHS). The NHS provides free access to health services to every British citizen and the bill goes to the taxpayer.
The National Obesity Observatory released a report in 2010 on the economic burden of obesity. The report estimated that in 2007 being overweight or obese cost the NHS £4.2billion. That is direct costs for actually treating the direct symptoms of obesity or being overweight. The report then goes on to state that by 2015 indirect costs (i.e. treating the diseases such as diabetes caused by being overweight, and the impact included in days off work, loss of earnings and losing their job and having to go on to health-based benefits) would be around £27billion.
The NHS in 2012/13 had a budget of around £108.9billion. That means that obesity is literally sucking up 25%+- of the NHS total budget. Is that really ok? When you think that frontline services to the NHS are constantly slashed because they cant afford paramedics, ambulances, doctors and nurses I find it astonishing that if people were more physically active then, even by reducing the cost to the NHS for obesity by 10%, you could free up around £420million!
An air ambulance costs around £1500 a flight, a paramedic earns a starting wage of around £22,000 a year and a nurse earning the same as a paramedic. With this in mind do we not think the NHS is best served by squeezing peoples waistline rather than squeezing the number of jobs and the practitioners pay?
So, how do we proceed from here? What are your thoughts?