Obesity: How pharmacies could help curb the epidemic

Treating obesity is costing the NHS £5.1 billion per year. But what is equally worrying is a trend towards “normalisation” of being overweight or obese – as a significant amount of people who are in these categories believe they are a healthy weight, reports Pharmacy Management Magazine.

In the UK, 26% of men and 24% of women are obese; 41% of men and 33% of women are overweight. A poll by the National Obesity Forum, on the other hand, found only 6% of Brits consider themselves obese and almost half think they are a healthy weight.

The magazine has published a blog post – The Big Issue of Weight Loss - about how pharmacies can help curb obesity, by educating patients and offering weight loss services.

The spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, Tam Fry, has said that educating patients of obesity related issues is vital.

“People in general aren’t well informed about the comorbidities of obesity. They don’t know the risks if you’re overweight and the risk of complications from that,” he said.

Increasingly, pharmacies are also offering weight loss services to reduce obesity and related health risks.

Experts say pharmacists can do more to educate patients

The Pharmacy Management Magazine report stated that pharmacists are in agreement about the need to increase the awareness of obesity and its related issues.

A study by the Mayo Clinic in the United States and Canada’s University of Ottawa has found more proof that carrying excess weight – especially in the stomach area – dramatically increases mortality.

On hearing this, Fry has stressed the importance of educating patients about the health dangers of being overweight or obese. “You (the pharmacist) needs to be able to strike up conversations about weight in a sensitive way,” he explained.

“Community pharmacies see their customers frequently so are well placed to offer the best advice.”

What can pharmacists do?

Pharmacists say that being open and transparent with patients improve knowledge, but also keep them motivated to lose weight.

Rena Dadra from the Village Pharmacy, Harlington stated, “This is our biggest mover. We’ve seen an increase in men asking for advice, which is very good to see. People saw a pharmacist on a weekly basis and are proud to talk to the staff about their weight loss achievements.”

But how can pharmacists provide greater advice? Vishal Mahru, from VM Pharmacy Services Leicester recommends a tailored approach.

“The main way we approach the issue is with specifically tailored lifestyle advice, helping the customer understand how they can help themselves.”

“Some people understand what they can do to lose weight in terms and sugar intake, but others don’t have any idea at all. By finding out about the individual we can point them in the right direction.”

Marsden has also produced resources to boost awareness of weight-related health issues. The body composition white paper helps patients understand more about monitoring and looking after their health.

Alternatively Marsden’s body composition poster shows the views of celebrities towards looking after their own health.

Weight loss services

Increasingly pharmacists are offering weight loss services to patients to improve weight and reduce the threat to health.

Sultan Dajani from Wainwright’s Pharmacy in Bishopstoke, Hampshire has been providing weight loss services to customers for many years.

“Many individuals have been living with weight issues for years, so I try to add in a small, manageable change each month -  and I tailor the service to their own motivations” informed Mr Dajani.

Weight loss schemes, such as that by Mr Dujani are available for patients showing a high BMI – such as 30+ in the case of Mr Dajani’s scheme.

A Class III Approved weighing scale is all pharmacists need to provide this service. BMI can be calculated quickly and easily using any Marsden Floor Scale.

Pharmacies can be much more flexible than any weight loss group when offering schemes.

“Customers can choose a time that’s convenient for them to come in and we’re much more flexible than, say, a weight loss group,” explained Julie Glanville, from St Clears Pharmacy, Wales.

General awareness

Pharmacists can make a positive change on reducing the threat of obesity by making small changes to their services, such as increasing awareness to patients of the risks and pointing them in directions of schemes that can help and support their weight loss ambitions.

To help pharmacists become more open and honest with customers about their weights and improve two-way dialogue, Marsden has recently released the M-550 - a reliable, low cost Class III Approved floor scale. With five times the accuracy of traditional mechanical scales, it is superb value for money at just £95+VAT.

To visit our dedicated section for pharmacies, click here.

To speak to one of Marsden’s dedicated members of staff and to find the right scale for your needs call 01709 364296 or email sales@marsdengroup.co.uk.

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