Obese people to lose free fitness coaches and weight loss apps as Government cuts funding

Obese people will lose access to fitness coaches and weight loss apps, it was warned on Thursday, as it emerged £100 million of funding is being diverted to pay for the “Living with Covid” plan.

The Living with Covid strategy will be funded from existing Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) budgets, it is understood, meaning its other funding streams have been revised and reallocated.

Funding for healthy weight activities for the next financial year has been reduced as a result.

Some £400 million in Covid outbreak support funding for local councils has also been cut, The Telegraph understands.

The £100 million package of specialized support to help people achieve and maintain a healthier weight was announced by DHSC last year.

Some £70 million was invested through the NHS and councils to provide adults with access to weight loss groups or fitness coaches, while £30 million was used to fund free access weight loss apps and marketing campaigns.

‘Fatest’ country in Western Europe

Public health groups, the Local Government Association (LGA) and charities have warned the funding cut, first reported by the Local Government Chronicle, will be detrimental to cutting obesity levels in the UK.

Almost a third (28 per cent) of the adult population in England is obese, and more than a third (36 per cent) are overweight, estimates suggest.

In 2020, the Government announced a landmark obesity strategy to encourage healthier living and protect people against Covid. Studies have found being overweight is associated with an increased risk of hospitalization from the virus.

James Jamieson, chair of the LGA, said: “This decision will result in the closure of some existing weight management programmes, restricting the ability for councils to improve health outcomes in their local areas and increasing health and care pressure further down the line.”

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “The best way to help the NHS is to stop people needing it so much.

“Removing this funding undermines the Government’s commitment to prevention and will increase health inequalities and obesity levels across the UK.”

Dr Jyotsna Vohra, Director for Policy and Public Affairs at the Royal Society for Public Health, said the move “goes against any promises to tackle the UK’s high obesity rates”.

“With obesity rates reaching record levels during the pandemic, the news that the government is cutting £100m of funding for weight management services is of great concern, to say the least, and brings into question the government’s commitment to tackling obesity in the UK – the ‘fattest’ country in Western Europe,” Dr Vohra added.

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