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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 generations".

Statistics highlighted by the panel included:

  • More than 28% of children in England are obese or overweight.
  • 97% of obese children have parents who are obese or overweight.
  • 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 2050

The debate continues online