Background to Weight Management and Obesity


  1. What is the prevalence and impact of overweight and obesity in the UK?
  2. The role of community pharmacy in weight management and obesity

What is the prevalence and impact of overweight and obesity in the UK?

Now more than ever, it is imperative that pharmacy professionals and their teams assist in addressing weight management and obesity. With increasing rates of adults in the overweight and obese categories in the UK population, it negatively impacts the economy and reduces life expectancy in the obese population as shown below in Figure 1.

Individuals in the Caucasian adult population with a body mass index (BMI) of 25kg/m2 or greater are considered overweight, whereas individuals who are obese have a BMI greater than 30 kg/m2. Certain ethnicities, such as South Asian, Chinese and Japanese individuals, adults may be considered overweight at BMI >23 and obese at BMI >27.5.1,2. However, when using PGDs for medicated weight management or selling medicines for weight loss, please refer to the guidance in the PGD and SPmC for the medicine.

Figure 1. The prevalence and effects of obesity in the UK

Some of the complications of overweight and obesity-related conditions include:

  • asthma
  • cancer
  • cardiovascular disease
  • depression and anxiety
  • hypertension
  • type 2 diabetes and prediabetes
  • sleep apnoea

Treatment and hospitalisation for such complications contribute to the economic burden on the NHS as well as the wider UK economy. These include lost earnings due to sickness, which is estimated to be up to £16 billion.3

There are many benefits to helping an individual achieve a 5-10% weight loss, as shown below in Figure 2:

Figure 2. How weight loss can improve obesity related comorbidities

The role of community pharmacy in weight management and obesity

As a community pharmacy, you are well placed to initiate conversations about weight management and obesity with the general public. It is important that you embrace the conversation to speak to your patients about their weight.

Simply by recognising the complexities of excess weight and the potential benefits of weight loss, you are ready to help your patients improve their weight and other weight related conditions such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

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As a pharmacist and as a member of the pharmacy team, we encourage interventions in relation to healthy living to improve Public Health across the country. For example weight management is encouraged within the pharmacy contract in England where it is part of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) within the Healthy Living domain. Weight management and healthy lifestyles form an integral part of the Living Well campaigns delivered through community pharmacies in Northern Ireland.

As seen in Figure 3, results from an inquiry by The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity in 2018 revealed that 42% of people did not feel comfortable speaking to their GP about their obesity.4  The main barrier that prevents people talking about obesity is the stigma associated with it and we want to equip you and your teams with the knowledge and tools to overcome this.

The NPA hub includes specific training on obesity awareness, how motivational interviewing can be used to have effective consultations about obesity and the best language to use when attempting to have conversations about obesity. In addition, this hub directs you to additional training as well as a private PGD for you to deliver private weight management services to increase access to such support and medication as appropriate.

Figure 3. Results from a report from an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity in relation to how people felt speaking to healthcare professionals about obesity.4


  1. SIGN: Management of obesity, A national clinical guidance
  2. NICE public health draft guidance: Assessing body mass index and waist circumference thresholds for intervening to prevent ill health and premature death among adults from black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups in the UK
  3. Healthy Lives, Healthy People | A call to action on obesity in England
  4. All-Party Parliamentary Group On Obesity. The current landscape of obesity services: a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Obesity.


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