Thursday, June 25, 2009

Through thick and thin...

On the radio this morning, people were debating if the NHS should pay the extra £23,000 a young girl needs in order to be able to stay at a fat camp in America until she reaches her target weight. To those of you who’ve missed the story in the press, sixteen year old Georgia Davies from Aberdare, who was once dubbed Britain’s Fattest Teen, has been attending the camp and has managed to go from weighing 33 stone to 18 stone. Though she still has another 6 stone to lose before she reaches her goal weight, she’s already a completely different person. She looks great, her confidence has soared and her outlook on life seems brighter. Her scholarship at the camps runs out in December, and experts there say it will take a further six months after that for her to reach her target. Hence why she’s asking the NHS to foot the bill for that period.

It’s a dilemma. As she rightly points out, by losing weight she’ll be costing the NHS less in the long term than if she were to stay obese as she’ll face less medical complications and so on. But should the NHS really be funding costly treatment abroad? I’m not convinced. Obesity is rising in Britain. If they pay for Georgia, then would they then have to send every morbidly obese person on such a programme in the states? It wouldn’t be sustainable – plus there’s no guarantee that people would keep the weight off for good.

As regular readers of my blog know, I do empathise with overweight people and I understand that the solution isn’t as simple as “they should just eat less”. Overeating can be an addiction, and is an eating disorder in its own right. People wouldn’t dream of suggesting that a simple solution for Anorexia or Bulimia would be to eat more, and yet they have no qualms about saying that fat people are just lazy and selfish and that it’s their own fault for being fat. I hate the double standards. To this day, I can’t tell you how I got to be as obese as I used to be. I had no control over it at all, and it took a hell of a lot of discipline and support to lose the weight. Even today it’s a daily struggle to try and maintain some kind of normal weight. I’m constantly starting one diet or another, going up and down in weight and worrying about it. If there was a simple solution then I’m sure I would have found it by now!

Yes, something needs to be done to tackle obesity but simply funding trips to fat camps in the US isn’t a solution. Though I have a great deal of sympathy for Georgia, I’d be outraged if the NHS did pay up. A far more practical and worthwhile solution would be for the NHS to invest in establishing fat camps here instead if they think that they will work. Or do more to acknowledge that eating disorders of all types need to be tackled with counselling, exercise programmes and so on. £23,000 could help a lot of individuals turn their lives around and I don’t think spending it on this particular individual can be justified unless the same amount of money is available to help every single obese person. For her sake, I do hope some wealthy donor comes forward as I'd hate for her to miss out on the opportunity but its not the NHS that could be coming up with the cash.

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