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Royal College of Physicians

News & Views

Obesity; what every health professional should know

A new report produced for Foresight by the Royal College of Physicians says that in future every health professional will need to be trained to identify people at risk from increasing body weight, and be skilled at managing obesity.

The dramatic increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the UK in the last 20 years has not been matched by a similar expansion of education and training in how to care for obese patients.  Too often health professionals ignore the obvious signs or symptoms of obesity or simply advise the person to lose weight, so it is not surprising that most healthcare interventions only happen when medical complications and disease become apparent.

At present there is limited information provided in both under- and post-graduate training, and very little focus on weight management in specialist medical training, and health professionals either do not realise the medical consequences of obesity or lack confidence and the ability to help.

The training of health professionals for the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity outlines the importance of educating health professionals and lists in detail the knowledge and skills needed to be able to diagnose, manage and treat overweight and obese people, whether their medical condition is linked to obesity or not.  The report is endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

The report includes a chapter on children and young people, and a set of grids that can be used to help education providers in targeting knowledge and skills where they are most needed.  In addition, two commissioning grids outline the knowledge and skills needed to commission obesity services effectively.

Professor Peter Kopelman, the chair of the working party report, said:

“Regardless of the particular discipline of the health professional, or the setting in which he/she works, the message that needs to be heard is that ‘managing overweight and obesity is everybody’s business’ ”

Sir John Beddington, chief scientific advisor and head of the Government Office for Science (in which Foresight sits) said:

“In 2007, the Foresight report ‘Tackling Obesities’ highlighted the complexity of the obesity problem and the need for action across all sectors of society, if we are to avert the continuing increase in personal and economic costs of obesity.  The core competencies that will give professionals the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to effective strategies for prevention and treatment are highlighted in this timely report from the Royal College Physicians”


The UK Government’s Foresight Programme helps Government think systematically about the future. Foresight uses the latest scientific and other evidence to provide advice for policymakers in addressing future challenges. Foresight is in the Government Office for Science (GO-Science). GO-Science supports the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser in ensuring that the Government has access to, and uses, the best science and engineering advice. It is located within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Published on: December 9, 2010

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