In 2015, Public Health England commissioned four sets of questions on NatCen’s British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, one of which focused on obesity. The BSA is an authoritative, high quality source of data on views of the British public which has been performed annually since 1983. It uses random probability sampling to yield a representative sample of adults aged 18 years and older who live in private households. The majority of questions are asked by an interviewer face-to-face in the form of a Computer Assisted Personal Interview, while a smaller number are answered by respondents in a self-completion booklet.
“Attitudes to obesity” is the publication of the obesity findings from the 2015 survey, presenting new findings on attitudes towards obesity and what might be done to reduce its prevalence. Despite appreciating some of the health risks, people tended not to recognise obesity when present, especially in men. Obesity was typically regarded as a problem for individuals and health care professionals rather than society in general. Furthermore, those who are obese were often stigmatised.
The findings are particularly relevant to type 2 diabetes (T2DM) since obesity is widely seen as the driver behind the T2DM ‘epidemic’. Regarding obesity as individual issue, implies that people are personally responsible for their plight and this is then extrapolated to blame following a diagnosis of T2DM. In this environment, the political imperative to allow for new ‘expensive’ treatments to be made available to people with T2DM is low. Indeed, a new definition of ‘expensive’ comes into play, where the individual per-person drug cost is subsumed by the population cost because of the large numbers involved. On this basis, one can argue that people with T2DM are discriminated against, compared with other conditions such as cancer, heart disease and liver disorders.
Fortunately, the survey showed significant support for actions aimed at reducing levels of obesity. We need to make sure that our patients with T2DM can also tap into this support.
Professor Steve Bain