S. Asians encouraged to lose weight & cut COVID-19 risk


Public Health England (PHE) has launched a major new adult health campaign, called ‘Better Health’, to encourage adults to eat better, lose weight and get active.

Everyone can benefit from taking steps towards having a healthier diet and getting more exercise. Data shows that 16.3% of Asian men and 23.6% of Asian women are living with obesity, putting them at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes – and now COVID-19.

Data highlighted in a recent PHE report shows that obese people are significantly more likely to become seriously ill and be admitted to intensive care with COVID-19 compared to those with a healthy BMI.

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The Better Health campaign, which forms part of the Government’s new Obesity Strategy, will specifically target groups that have higher rates of obesity including South Asians, black Africans and black Caribbeans.

The campaign will provide access to a range of tools, information, and advice to help people start their weight-loss journey. This includes the new FREE 12-week NHS Weight Loss Plan, available both online and via a new app, which offers exercise plans and healthy food options to help users lose and maintain a healthy weight.

 by . “Gaining weight often happens gradually over time and can be just the odd unhealthy habit mounting up, but extra weight puts pressure on our bodies and reduces our strength to fight off serious diseases, including COVID-19,” said Professor Kevin Fenton, London Regional Director at Public Health England. “COVID-19 has given us a wake-up call to get our health back on track. We know how hard it can be to lose weight and keep it off – our Better Health campaign aims to make it easier for everyone to introduce changes that will help them maintain a healthy weight. It’s never too late, or too early, to make changes that will have a lasting impact on your health.”

Professor Wasim Hanif, Chairman Diabetes Working Group at the South Asian Health Foundation (SAHF) says:  “The South Asian community is already predisposed to many serious health conditions that are exacerbated by being overweight or obese, such as type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and now most significantly, Coronavirus.  As the latest figures reveal that over 16.3% of Asian men and 23.6% of Asian women are living with obesity, we support the Better Health campaign’s attempts to provide practical guidance to how we all can live a healthier life.”

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“Being overweight or obese is a complex issue,” said TV Doctor Ranj Singh.   It happens because of a number of reasons, both related to the individual and the environment that they are in. Blame doesn’t help anyone, and this is an issue we all need to tackle together. Being obese or overweight has a long term effect on your health and is linked to many serious and preventable health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The Better Health website provides lots of useful information to help people introduce changes and help manage their weight. Given that we are already at risk from certain health conditions, I encourage people within the Asian community to visit this website to access tools to improve the quality of their lives and help reduce their risk of serious disease.”

The Better Health campaign was developed with cooperation from local authorities, health charities, multi-cultural specialists, and experts in specific areas such as nutrition to ensure it is compatible with different communities.  The campaign will also be supported by a range of weight management organisations including WW, weight watchers reimagined, Slimming World and GetSlim, who will be offering exclusive discounts to coincide with the launch.

Over the next few months, Better Health will include wider support to help people live healthier lives, with advice on quitting smoking and how people can look after their mental health.

PHE is also releasing a new film explaining how weight gain happens, the impact that it has on our bodies and how it increases the risk of serious diseases. The film helps people know when to act and encourages them to visit the Better Health website to find out about the available support.  The Better Health campaign film is available online.

Along with black and South Asian communities, the Insights Report into COVID-19 and excess weight  also highlights that being overweight is more prevalent in those aged between 55-74 years and people living in deprived areas. It also highlights that the health risk of excess weight for minority ethnic communities occur at a lower BMI than for White populations.