Health matters

Hale and Hearty: Public Health Specialist for NHS Derbyshire County Julie Hirst.
Hale and Hearty: Public Health Specialist for NHS Derbyshire County Julie Hirst.

AS part of our ongoing series of health columns, Julie Hirst, public health specialist for NHS Derbyshire County, including Buxton and the High Peak, talks about weight.

Recent figures released by the NHS Information Centre show that the East Midlands has the highest rate of weight-loss stomach surgery in the country, with 32 procedures for every 100,000 of the population. However, this drastic action can be avoided if you take action now.

A new weight loss service for the extremely overweight has helped 70 per cent of its patients lose five per cent or more of their body weight – enough to cause a significant improvement in their health – since it launched two years ago. These figures show there is hope for all those people who know they are seriously overweight.

NHS Derbyshire County annually invests over £250,000 into the weight loss service, which offers psychological and emotional support to ‘morbidly obese’ patients, or those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more, to help patients look at their relationships with food, so they can make key changes to their lifestyles.

Excessive weight can result in many serious, potentially life-threatening problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. People with dangerous levels of fat in their bodies are also at higher risk of developing colon, prostrate, endometrial and breast cancer.

Obesity is when a person is carrying too much body fat for their height and sex. A person is considered obese if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is good way to check if you’re a healthy weight. You can use the BMI calculator on the NHS Choices website to check the whole family and find helpful information and advice. The calculator is available at

Obesity can cause a number of health problems, such as type 2 diabetes (a condition caused by too much glucose in the blood), and heart disease (when the heart’s blood supply is blocked).

Being overweight or obese can also shorten life expectancy (how long a person should live). In obese adults over 40 years of age, obesity can shorten life expectancy by 6-7 years.

Using a team of psychologists, physical activity specialists, occupational therapists, nutrition experts and key support workers, the 8 to 24 week programme explores why people are bigger, and addresses any links from childhood and past relationships with food which might be causing them to overeat. It also aims to give those at highest risk of health problems due to their weight, an alternative to bariatric surgery.

Many morbidly obese patients mistakenly assume that weight loss surgery is their only option. It is not. It should be the last resort.

The figures from NHS Derbyshire County’s service show that once people understand the emotional and psychological reasons behind their overeating they are in a much better place to make sustainable lifestyle changes.

The 70 per cent weight loss was achieved after six months, with a third hitting this target after three months. For further information about the service contact James Creaghan on 01246 514112 or email