Urban Health Issue and obesity in the U.K


            The following sections will be included in the introduction:

  1. Overview of urban health issues and their effects to the population
  2. Obesity prevalence in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and United States (U.S.)

This section will introduce readers to obesity and its prevelence for the last two centuries in U.K. and U.S. and compared to other regions in the world.

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  1. The objectives of the study
  2. Thesis statement

Rationale: why obesity is an urban health issue

According to a recent study, national guidelines on peoples’ ideal weight were drawn and the researchers found that overweight people have higher chances of experiencing mortality risk compared to those of normal weight. These studies show that obesity is an urban health issue and people ought to be more aware of its dangers. Main areas in affected with this health issue in London include Westbournene, Queenspark, Harrow road, church street, churchill, North and South of Borough. In the U.K. the prevalence of obesity is slightly higher in females (25.6%) than in males(22.6%) and increases with age (Reilly, et al,2003). Figure 1 shows obesity prevalence in the U.K. between 1980 and 2010. Figure 2 shows an epidemiological data on obesity prevelence in relation to age. 

Figure 1: Obesity prevelence in U.K.

Figure 2: An epidemiological data on obesity prevelence in relation to age

The past research shows prevalence of obesity among Westminster dwellers has steadily increased for the past 10 years. In 2012, around 65%of UK adults were classified as overweight or obese.  More than 25% fell under the obese category. It is predicted that there will be continued increase in overweight and obesity across all age groups.  Obesity has always been asociated with negative health implications such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Many deaths have resulted from cardiovascular diseases over the past few years and as a result, obesity has become an issue of concern to researchers. According to studies, people who live near parks tend to be more physically active because they are likely to use them more for physicall exercises (Millward 2013).

Acording to Dor, Langwith & Tan, (2010),  though obesity is common in all population groups, there exists a variation in the distribution across the UK population. It is more prevalent in areas such as Harrow road and Queenspark. Many features of the suburban built environment are associated with decreased physical activity hence higher risks of being obese. Some of these features might include street conectivity that do not allow physical activity.

Determinants of obesity in an urban set up

Obesity is a complex phenomena which involves a wide range of behavioural, societal and biological factors. In 1997, obesity was recognised by a World Health Organization as an epidemic. Economic growth and globalization of food markets were found to be the main determinants of obesity. Other determinants include diet, sedentary lifestyles, higher income and changes in consumer behaviour (Gentile, Panico, et al 2010). Most people in urban areas consume mainly junk foods, snacking and high sugar containing foods which are high in calorie content. Calories are known to be the determining factors of obesity when consumed in large quantities over a given period of time. When talking of physical activity, data shows that people living in Westminster or other urban areas get less than the recomended daily exercises. This results to lack of cardio-respiratory fitness. It is more common among the adult generation since they don’t engage in much physical exercises.

Sedentary lifestyles- a lot of time is spent watching television, videos or using computers, studying and other sedentary hobbies. High level of screen time is usually associated with greate risks of being obese. However, this should not be confused with lack of physical exercise. Most urban dwellers earn high incomes. This comes with prestige and bad consumption habits which lead to obesity (Segel 2011).

Consequences of obesity

Obesity, just like other diseases, has an impact on communities, nations and even individuals. Some of these effects include heart and stroke diseases, diabetes and cancer. Heart disease and stroke are  the major consequences of obesity, and are the major causes of death and disability for both men and women in the Western World. Obese people are more likely to have high blood pressure. This  a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, than people who are not overweight.  high blood levels of cholesterol and blood fats can also lead to heart disease and often are linked to being overweight (Public Health England 2013).


Acording to Bray (2004),  diabetes- obesity is usually associated with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes in the Western World. Type 2 diabetes lowers the ability of the body to control  blood sugar. This results to early death, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and blindness. Type 2 diabetes can be reduced by an increase of physical activity.


Different types of cancer are brought by obesity. these include cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, cervix, ovary, breast, and colon. This is most common in women who are overweight. Overweight men also have greater chances of getting cancer of the colon and prostate.  This is caused by the extra weight and excess fats. Excess weight also leads to premature wear and tear of the joints. There are changes (osteoarthritis) of the knee and hip joints which limits mobility. According to research, Arthritis has been reported to be common in obese women (Pergola, G. D., & Silvestris 2013).

According to (Danaei, et al 2009), the health care costs of obesity in the U.K were estimated to be as high as $170 billion in 2007. This includes amount of money spent directly on medical care and prescription drugs related to obesity. Other costs associated with obesity include cost of lost days of work, insurance premiums, lower-income and wages linked to obesity-related complications. Obese employees miss more days from work as a result of short-term complications brought by obesity. Employers, on the other hand, pay higher life insurance premiums.

Policies, preventions and awareness

Regular physical exercises can serve as a better way of preventing obesity. Proper exercise leads to burning of excess calories which cause obesity. Healthy eating habits should be adopted. Foods with high sugar content and excess snacking should be avoided. More fruits and vegetables should be taken. People should be made aware of the health implications of obesity country-wide. This can be done through the mass media and other forms of massage transmission that can reach a larger population at once. Screen time i.e. time spent watching television and using computers should be minimized. (Colditz, 2008).

Personal interventions should be encouraged. This refers to what individuals can do to mitigate this health problem. An example is vaccination of communicable diseases. Incentives should play a bigger part in encouraging healthy eating and physical exercises. Many legislative proposals can be put in place such as fitness bonuses on tax returns, incentives for weight reduction.

Building standards for public buildings should be encouraged. Buildings with multiple stairs are a good opportunity for people to exercise. Codes could require that the stairs be designed in such a way so as to encourage their use. Nutrition support should also be given to older generation. National strategies to promote and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce consumption of saturated fats should be formulated. A written policy document which is concerned with nutrition should be drawn up and made available to the whole public. Schools should also chip in by coming up with health and nutrition education programs. This should be a national rule which all schools and colleges should adhere to. The government needs to come up with a legislation requiring labeling of nutritional values of all food stuffs sold. Information such as ingredients and corresponding energy intake should be included.


            The expected recommendations include conducting campaigns to create awareness on the side effects of obesity and how to prevent its prevalence. Secondly, the study will provide a recommendation to the urban dwellers on the type of diet they should take and the amount of weight one is expected to have. Finally, a recommendation to the government and health centers to introduce medical support at low cost for obese people.


Obesity is a general health problem that affects all age groups and as a result, all parties should take participation in reducing and preventing its effects. The ministry of health, together with ministry of agriculture should come up with proper administrative structure responsible for the implementation of the above policies.

References list

BRAY, G. A. 2004). “Medical consequences of obesity,” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 89(6), 1-32.

CAWLEY, J. MEYERHOEFER, C. (2012). “The medical care costs of obesity, an instrumental variables approach,” Journal of Health Economics, 31(1), 219-300

COLDITZ G. W. & WANG, Y. C. (2008). Economic costs of obesity, Obesity Epidemiology, New York: Oxford University Press.

DANAE, G., DING, E. L., Mozaffarian, D., et al. (2009). The preventable causes of death in the United States, comparative risk assessment of dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors,

COLDITZ G. A. (2009). Economic costs of obesity. Retrieved from:


DAY, K. & ALFONZO, M, (2009). Overweight and obesity in urban centres. New York:

DOR, A. F., LANGWITH, C., & TAN, E. (2010). A heavy burden, The individual costs of being overweight and obese in the United States, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services Department of Health Policy.

FINKELSTEIN, E. A., TROGDON, J. G., COHEN, J. W. & DIETZ, W. (2009). Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: Prayer-and-service specific estimates. Project HOPE-The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc. retrieved from:


GENTILE, M., PANICO, S., RUBBA, F., MATTIELLO, A., CHIODINI, P., JOSSA, F., ET AL. (2010). “Obesity, overweight, and weight gain over adult life are main determinants of elevated hs-CRP in a cohort of Mediterranean women, “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition,64(8), 873-878.

MILLWARD, D. J. (2013). Energy balance and obesity: a UK perspective on the gluttony v. sloth debate. Nutrition Research Reviews26(02), 89-109.

PANEL, NHLBI OBESITY EDUCATION INITIATIVE EXPERT. (1998). Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults. Bethesda (MD): National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

PERGOLA, G. D., & SILVESTRIS, F. (2013). Obesity as a Major Risk Factor for Cancer. Journal of Obesity2013. Retrieved November 18, 2013, from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/291546

PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND. (2013, November 14). Home :: Public Health England Obesity Knowledge and Intelligence team. Home :: Public Health England Obesity Knowledge and Intelligence team. Retrieved March 8, 2014, from:


REILLY, J., METHVEN, E., McDOWELL, Z., HACKING, B., ALEXANDER, D., STEWART, L & KELNAR, C. (2003). “Health consequences of obesity,” Archives of disease in childhood, 88(9), 748-752.

RUSELL, P., LOPEZ, H. & PATRICIA, (2004). Obesity, physical activity and urban environment. USA: Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source

SEGEL, C. M. (2011). Childhood obesity risk factors, health effects, and prevention. New York: Nova Science.

TROGDON, J. G., FINKELSTEIN, E. A., HYLANDS, T., DELLEA, P. S., KAMAL-BAHL, S. J. (2008). “Indirect costs of obesity, a review of the current literature.” Obesity Review, 9(5), 489-500.

WANG, C. Y., MCPHERSON, K., MARSH, T., GORTMAKER, S., & BROWN, M. (2011). “Health and economic burden of the projected obesity trends in the USA and the UK,” The Lancet, 378(9793), 525-527

ZAMBONI, M. G, ET AL. (2005). “Health consequences of obesity in the elderly, a review of four unresolved questions.” International journal of obesity, 29(9), 55-71

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