NI Pharmacies To Give Weight Loss Advice

A scheme to tackle weight issues in society is to be rolled out in more than 500 pharmacies across Northern Ireland.

With nearly two thirds of adults now classed as overweight or obese, the service aims to get more people eating healthily and engaging in physical activity to improve their health.

Introduced by the Public Health Agency as part of the Living Well initiative, the service will have two strands. Firstly, opportunistic interventions will be carried out to help reduce key risk factors that cause illness. Targeted issues include high blood pressure, tobacco use, harmful misuse of alcohol, unhealthy diets, sexual health and substance misuse.

Secondly, there will be targeted campaigns within pharmacies over the coming year. 'Choose to Live Better' is the second of five public health campaigns in 2019/2020 and will run throughout August and September.

The Northern Ireland Health Survey shows the proportion of overweight and obese adults was 64% in 2017/18, with 27% being obese and 37% overweight. Experts believe that chemists will prove to be an effective point of contact to enable healthier decision making among the public.

Caroline Bloomfield, the PHA's Lead on Obesity Prevention, said: "In recent years the prevalence of overweight and obesity has gradually risen and it is now the norm, rather than the exception, to be overweight in Northern Ireland.
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"It is estimated that around one in ten of us visit community pharmacies every day. We want to increase patient and public knowledge and understanding of the importance of a healthy weight, heighten awareness of the health impacts of being overweight or obese, and highlight how making small changes every day, like eating healthier meals and moving more, can make a big difference.

"Delivering these messages through pharmacies is a great way of reaching people."

Joe Brogan from the Health and Social Care Board added: "It is recognised that community pharmacies are well placed to provide a focal point for the provision of health advice, information and services to help people live longer, healthier lives.

"Community pharmacies are often open when other healthcare providers are unavailable and they offer convenient access to a trained healthcare professional without an appointment. Studies show that people interact with community pharmacists at an average of 12 to 15 times a year, often using the same pharmacy each time."

Community pharmacist Eoghan O'Brien, Pharmacist at Bannside Pharmacy, Portglenone, said: "Overweight and obesity is something that impacts on the health of many people in Northern Ireland.

"This is something community pharmacists across Northern Ireland can advise people on through the Choose to Live Better campaign. We can encourage people to think about their own weight, raise awareness of the health impacts of being overweight or obese, and also help to make them aware that lifestyle changes, even small ones such as reducing portion sizes, can make a difference to their weight."


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