Tackling the Obesity Epidemic with the Power of Digital Healthcare

The obesity epidemic in the United Kingdom has reached alarming levels, with over 63% of adults now classified as overweight or obese according to recent government data. This chronic, complex condition carries significant health risks, increasing the likelihood of serious conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and certain cancers. Despite widespread public health campaigns promoting healthy lifestyles, traditional approaches have largely failed to curb the rise in obesity rates across the country. The lack of comprehensive medical care and policy support for those affected by this disease has exacerbated the crisis, leaving many without the resources they need to manage their health. As the wider economic impacts of an increasingly overweight population become more apparent, innovative digital healthcare solutions may offer new
avenues to address this growing public issue.

Obesity, defined by the World Health Organisation as an ”abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health” and characterised by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, is still often perceived as simply the result of individual choices. However, experts caution that this chronic condition is far more complex. Despite all efforts, people with obesity can find weight loss difficult to achieve and maintain. This is influenced by factors such as genetic, behavioural, environmental and social.

Our View of Obesity is Backwards – We Need to Shift the Narrative
Solving the obesity crisis first requires addressing deeply entrenched misconceptions within society, the government and healthcare system that fail to recognise obesity as a complex condition. Instead, many view it simply as a result of personal choices and individual responsibility. Reframing this narrative is crucial. Additionally, changing public attitudes and tackling the shame and stigma surrounding obesity is essential. People living with obesity
should not be made to feel blamed for their condition. The shame many experience often prevents them from seeking the support they need. Creating an environment where individuals feel empowered to engage with healthcare providers and access appropriate treatment options is vital.

Studies have consistently shown that conventional diet programmes fail to achieve lasting weight loss. If you ask anyone who has struggled with their weight, they will likely recount numerous attempts at fad diets -that ultimately proved unsustainable. In one study, 204 participants weight loss was monitored and out of those, only 12% were able to maintain 75% of their weight loss. Almost half of the participants gained more weight that they initially lost. The reason is that the dietary changes required by these programmes are often unsustainable and they don’t offer the holistic and accessible support that is essential for long-term lifestyle changes.

Tackling Obesity Through Innovative, Digital Solutions
While traditional approaches have struggled to curb the obesity crisis, a new era of digital health technologies is emerging as a promising solution. These digital platforms offer support in ways that have never been possible before. They allow quick and easy access to healthcare professionals from anywhere, helping those who may have limited access to in- person care or are struggling with the shame and stigmas that are associated with obesity.
These innovative platforms can deliver multidisciplinary services tailored to each individuals needs. Accessed online or through a mobile app, they provide a comprehensive and holistic programme through regular check-ins with a team of experts, including doctors, dietitians, psychologists, and personal trainers. This technology-enabled approach tackles obesity from multiple angles, getting to the root cause of the condition by addressing both the physical and behavioural elements.

The potential of this digital care model has been recognised by the UK’s National Institute for Care and Health Excellence (NICE), which has introduced guidelines stating that obesity care should be provided digitally. Offering this level of multidisciplinary support through in- person care can be expensive and logistically challenging. However, digital health platforms provide a scalable solution to deliver this integrated support, making it more accessible to those in need. As the obesity epidemic continues to grow, these innovative technologies may offer new avenues to drive sustainable, long-term change where traditional methods have fallen short.

Harnessing the Power of GLP-1 Medications Alongside 360° Care
As well as comprehensive lifestyle support, various weight loss platforms have begun to offer prescription medications to help increase and sustain weight loss. This new class of drug is based on the hormone GLP-1, which has shown remarkable results in promoting weight loss and reducing the risk of heart disease, heart failure, and strokes. GLP-1 drugs, such as semaglutide (the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy), work by mimicking the
effects of the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone. These medications act directly on the brains appetite control system, reducing hunger and cravings for food. Semaglutide has been found to produce an average weight loss of up to 15% of body weight – far exceeding the results of previous weight loss drugs. In addition to aiding significant weight loss, studies have also demonstrated that semaglutide can have protective benefits for the cardiovascular system, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Science magazine named treatment with GLP-1 drugs for obesity as the ”breakthrough of the year” across all categories in 2023, underscoring the immense potential of these novel medications in the fight against the obesity epidemic.

The time has come to embrace this medical revolution and the power of digital healthcare in tackling the obesity epidemic. By combining the latest weight-loss medications with a holistic, technology-enabled care model, we can empower individuals to achieve sustainable weight management and improve their overall health and well-being. It is time to move beyond the outdated stigma and misconceptions surrounding obesity and treat it as the
chronic, complex disease that it is. Together, we can turn the tide on the obesity crisis and create a healthier future for all.


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