Britain is sickest nation in Europe
By Richard Edwards
Last Updated: 2:43am BST 23/10/2007
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Britain has been branded "the sick man of Europe" after a Government report revealed a nation blighted by record levels of obesity, alcohol abuse, diabetes and smoking related deaths.
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The rate of obesity in Britain is the worst in Europe
The rate of obesity in British adults is the worst in Europe and, in some areas, are now above the national average of the United States. In Boston, Lincolnshire, almost a third of men and women are now dangerously overweight.The "snapshot" of the nation's health showed that almost 900,000 children aged under 11 are obese - a 50 per cent increase in the past decade. The report from the Department of Health also revealed England as the only European country with rising alcohol consumption and an increase in alcohol-related deaths, particularly amongst women.
Other findings included:
* Britons drink 11.37 litres of pure alcohol per person compared with an EU average of 10.95 litres.
* The number of women aged 35 to 54 dying of alcohol abuse has almost doubled in the last 15 years.
* There are 288 deaths per 100,000 people from smoking-related causes in the UK, compared with an EU average of 263.
* People in the Britain eat an average of 25kg less fruit and vegetables each per year compared with EU countries.
* Diabetes sufferers have risen to 4.8 per cent of men and 3.6 per cent of women in 2003.
* Despite declining teenage pregnancy rates, the UK still has the highest proportion of births to under-20s compared to other western European countries. There are also new highs in separate figures for self harm, and the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia.
* A stark north-south divide remains, with boys born in Manchester likely to die on average 10 years younger than those born in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London.
Tory Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "These figures show a shocking rise in alcohol abuse and obesity levels in this country and how the Government is losing the battle to tackle public health challenges.
"This is a dreadful toll upon those affected and a great burden on our NHS. We have to reverse this. We can't continue being the sick man of Europe on health issues."
The Liberal Democrats claimed the figures revealed a "crisis in public health", and accused the Government of "half-hearted" measures to combat obesity.
Health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "Ten years of Labour Government has left us with widening health inequalities and a crisis in public health.
"We must urgently examine why we are the only European country with rising alcohol consumption and an increase in alcohol-related deaths - particularly amongst women and young people.
Mapping out he nation’s ill health: click to enlarge
"It is shocking that England is still the fattest nation in Europe."
It emerged on Monday that the Department of Health is considering plans to officially warn parents their children are fat by making them subject to compulsory weigh-ins.
Primary school pupils are weighed in school at the ages of five and 10, but the results are currently only passed along to parents if they are requested - even if the child is severely obese.
Under new proposals being considered by the Department of Health parents could be handed the measurements automatically and then offered help and advice to improve the well-being of their offspring.
The Health Profile of England report did show some positive results. Premature mortality rates from the two biggest killers, circulatory diseases and cancer, are reducing faster in England than the average for the EU. Life expectancy is at its highest ever level and the infant death rate is at its lowest in England.
Dawn Primarolo, the public health minister, conceded the report showed there was "a lot to do in tackling health inequalities".
"Whilst we have made good progress in stopping people smoking, I am determined to move further and faster to respond to all these challenges - with a cross Government drive to tackle obesity, improve diet and activity levels and promote safe and sensible drinking," she said.
"Our ambition is to reverse the rising tide of obesity and overweight in the population, by enabling everyone to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
"Our initial focus will be on children: By 2020, we aim to reduce the proportion of overweight and obese children to 2000 levels."
The Health Profile of England is based on analysis of national and regional data by the Department of Health.
First published in 2006, it is designed to allow comparisons of regional health trends to allow resources to be targeted effectively and efficiently.
It compares health data across nine English regions: London, South East, South West, East, East Midlands, West Midlands, North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber; as well as comparing the figures to international averages.
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