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Summit in Medway on growing problem of obesity to highlight achievable targets for overweight people

By Medway Messenger reporter

With almost one in three adults in Medway clinically obese, the area will hold its first obesity summit today.

More than a dozen key players from the area’s health, care, sports, education and food sectors will join the brainstorming session at the Priestfield Conference Centre, Gillingham, to come up with a strategy for Medway to battle the bulge.

Cllr Andrew Mackness, chairman of Medway’s health and wellbeing board, and Cllr David Brake, the council’s adult services boss, will lead the meeting.

Stock image of an obese child

Among the groups being represented will be Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, Medway Community Healthcare, NHS England, The Howard School Sport Partnership and even supermarket giant Tesco.

Cllr Mackness said obesity was identified early on as a priority issue for the health and wellbeing board when it was set up just more than a year ago.

He agreed that with 20% of the Towns’ 10-year-olds said to be obese, there is no “golden bullet” solution to the problem, but is excited that so many groups will be coming together to tackle the issue.

“I’m hoping the summit will come up with achievable targets and some innovative ways to achieve them,” he said.

“While this is a national problem, I’d like to see the Towns being ambitious in its approach and leading the way on this, rather than following.”

Cllr Andrew Mackness

The councillor, who runs his own catering business, has personal experience of waging war on the waistline.

During a recent visit to his doctor, he was told that at 5ft 11in tall and weighing in at 16 stone, he was at serious risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

He said: “My cholesterol was also high, which has implications for heart disease and cancer and at 49, going on 50, my health story was going only one way.

"Nevertheless, by tweaking my lifestyle, by walking more and eating slightly differently, I’ve lost 8lb in the last month and for many people that’s all it takes.

“Some might say their weight is their own business, but as a responsible authority we need to be encouraging people to make healthier lifestyle decisions.

Dr Julian Spinks at his Strood surgery

"Equally, as an authority, we need to tackle the rising cost of obesity-related illness in our ageing population.”

GP Julian Spinks, from Court View surgery in Darnley Road, Strood, welcomed the summit, warning that soon the obesity issue will overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of illness in Medway.

He said he is increasingly seeing more overweight patients with related issues including diabetes and heart disease in his surgery, as well as sufferers of premature arthritis in the knees and hips.

"Being overweight is increasingly being seen as the norm, and is reflected in the size of clothing available on the High Street" - GP Dr Julian Spinks

“Unfortunately, being overweight is increasingly being seen as the norm, and is reflected in the size of clothing available on the High Street, and I am more and more surprised when people aren’t overweight.”

He said better diet and increased exercise remained the key to tackling weight issues.

But he added: “More can be done to educate people about enjoying a variety of foods. I am concerned about the number of young people who seem to be unable to cook straightforward meals.”

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