Engaging Manchester’s public in debating childhood obesity
As part of the Manchester Science Festival, Nowgen - A Centre
for Genetics in Healthcare (and part of our Trust) organised a
lively and interactive debate to explore attitudes towards
childhood obesity, a health issue which has gained increasing focus
in recent years.
The audience discussed wide-ranging issues with an expert panel,
and electronically voted on key questions throughout the evening.
Possibly the most controversial finding was that, 22% of the
audience said that obese people rather than taxpayers should pay
for their treatment on the NHS.
The expert panel included Dr Catherine Hall, paediatric
consultant, from the Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (part of
CMFT), Dr Chris Steele, GP from ITV's This Morning, Professor
Andrew Hill, obesity psychologist from The University of Leeds and
Vicki Swinden, Founder of Fat is the New Black. Dr Hall researches
childhood obesity and has recently involved young obese people in
developing a regional obesity service tailored to their needs. Her
presentation discussed the link between obesity and genetics.
"We now know that the condition can be a result of the
interaction between environmental factors and a genetic
predisposition. 84% of overweight children have a family history of
obesity and there is more to it than just eating too much and
exercising too little."
As well as employees of the Trust audience members included
members of regional NHS Primary Care and Hospital Trusts, local
city councils, NHS Direct and the National Institute for Clinical
Excellence (NICE). Commenting on the event, Nowgen's Director of
Public Programmes, Bella Starling said: "These debates provide a
valuable forum for a range of voices to be heard and a variety of
opinions to be expressed. Sharing dialogue ensures public views
contribute to medical research.
Audience member Tom, a teacher from Oldham, was surprised by
what he learned during the debate. "Before this event I didn't
realise that obesity was quite such a major threat to the wellbeing
of young people in England. It is clear from the statistics and
issues raised this evening that we need to take the problem very
seriously and act quickly to ensure the good health of our future
Statistics highlighted by the panel included:
- More than 28% of children in England are obese or
- 97% of obese children have parents who are obese or
- 8 out of 9 parents with overweight children do not recognise
that their child is overweight.
- If left unchecked, 90% of adults will be overweight or obese by
The debate continues online