Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in Northern Ireland

14 January 2009

Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in Northern Ireland

A quarter of all men and 23 percent of women in Northern Ireland are considered to be obese. The seriousness of this rate of obesity is also illustrated by the number of people with Type 2 diabetes. Latest available data shows that over 62,000 people (around five cent of the population over 20 years of age) have type 2 diabetes – with a forecast that this could rise to over 81,000 by 2015.

The report shows that obesity and diabetes can have costly consequences. The cost attributable to lack of physical activity in Northern Ireland includes over 2,100 deaths per annum, while the treatment of those suffering from diabetes is reckoned to cost the health services across the UK around £1 million every hour.

The report acknowledges that the Department is committed to action across primary prevention, early detection and intervention in relation to both obesity and Type 2 diabetes. However, the full impact of its strategies on reducing the burden of Type 2 diabetes has still to be realised. The report calls for the policies that are adopted to halt the rise in both obesity and diabetes to be framed in such a way that measures of progress and outcomes can be more closely aligned.

The Department has set a target aimed at halting the rise in obesity by March 2010. However, the report concludes that this high-level target needs to be expanded, for example, to focus on gender differences, children and socio-economic groupings. The report also notes that currently there are no targets which relate to reducing the incidence of diabetes.

The report also points out that there is a need to build the evidence for effective obesity intervention strategies and to ensure that this informs the design and delivery of primary prevention programmes. NIAO strongly supports work underway to address this issue, for example, collecting and recording Body/Mass Index measurements for all year 8 and year 9 pupils. It calls on the Department to ensure that its approach to the surveillance of obesity risk factors is both comprehensive and timely.

Notes for Editors

  1. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs because the body produces too little insulin and is unable to properly use the insulin that is secreted. It usually occurs in older people although it is becoming more common amongst younger people, partly due to lifestyle factors such as diet, lack of physical activity and obesity.
  2. The Comptroller and Auditor General is Head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (the Audit Office). He, and the NIAO, are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of Government Departments and a range of other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and public bodies use their resources. His reports are published as House of Commons papers.
  3. The Comptroller and Auditor General's report on Obesity and Diabetes in Northern Ireland is published as NIA 73/08-09 and is available from the Stationery Office throughout the United Kingdom. The report is embargoed until 00.01 hrs on 14 January 2009.
  4. Background briefing can be obtained from the Audit Office by contacting Sean McKay (028 9025 1075).