A new Health Integration Team (HIT) was approved by Bristol Health Partners Academic Health Science Centre’s Research & Innovation Steering Group in November 2021. It will be the first new HIT to launch since the pandemic began.
The HIT will focus on obesity prevention and treatment by bringing together experts with lived experience of weight management services, researchers, public health professionals and clinicians.
Overweight and obesity are widespread amongst the population in England and in many other countries. In the last 30-40 years, their prevalence has increased dramatically in line with the changing environment. Obesity is associated with and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression and premature death. Obesity and its complications cost the NHS around £6 billion a year.
Unhealthy food is inexpensive, abundant, accessible and highly marketed, and people’s jobs are more sedentary. Levels of obesity are significantly higher in the most deprived areas of England, and within some ethnic minority communities.
It has been reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has widened existing health inequalities. The impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people’s daily lives is starting to be seen in the latest data on childhood obesity. In 2020/21 more than 25 per cent of UK schoolchildren in Year 6 (10 and 11 year-olds) had obesity, up from 21 per cent in the previous year. This is the sharpest increase since annual monitoring began in 2006.
In line with the rest of the UK, the population of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) has high levels of overweight and obesity, and low physical activity levels.
The key issues the new HIT has identified are:
The HIT will bring partners together to improve research related to preventing and treating overweight and obesity that will support system-wide decision-making. It aims to improve strategies to reduce obesity and improve efficiency across the health and care system.
Nine of our 11 partner organisations will be directly involved in the HIT, along with several other organisations beyond Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
The HIT will draw on a diverse network of people from across the BNSSG (and broader) footprint who have an interest in, or work to, prevent and treat obesity.
The HIT Leadership team includes four co-directors:
The HIT brings together significant research, clinical and public health expertise in overweight and obesity from across the region to help to develop new solutions that will build on our area’s strengths. For example, the new nationwide specialist NHS clinics to support children with severe obesity are based on a clinic at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.
Dr Karen Coulman, HIT co-director, says:
“Reducing levels of overweight and obesity is a national and local priority. Worryingly, we have seen a sharp increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity over the past year.
“By setting up the HIT we aim to ensure that research related to the prevention and treatment of obesity is better integrated with local policy and practice, and that policy and practice inform research that is undertaken locally.”
“We hope that this will lead to improved strategies to reduce overweight and obesity locally and cost-savings across the health and social care system”
Image credit: World Obesity Federation