THE Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) is funding a new initiative with GPs to help people who are overweight to lose weight and to lead active and healthy lifestyles.
The initiative is being supported by the Public Health Agency (PHA).
This pilot GP Weight Loss Referral Scheme is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and will operate through GP surgeries.
GPs and other professionals working in primary care, for example practice nurses and health visitors, will now be able to refer patients who meet the eligibility criteria for free sessions with a participating commercial weight loss provider.
Speaking about the benefits of the new programme, Dr Joanne McClean, Consultant in Public Health at the PHA, said, “Weight loss of 5-10% is associated with clinically significant health benefits, including a reduction in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. GPs and other members of the primary care team can play an important role in helping people who are motivated to make lifestyle changes to lose weight through a managed programme.”
Patients who are over 18 years of age, not pregnant, with a BMI greater than 30 and have not attended a slimming organisation in the last three months but are ready and committed to making lifestyle change will be issued with 12 vouchers, valid for a four month period. The patient will benefit from gaining physical activity and nutritional support in a safe, friendly and warm environment, tailored to suit their health needs and beneficial to their overall health.
Supporting this primary care initiative, local Newry GP Dr Sean Digney, said, “It is never too late to change habits and establish a healthy lifestyle. Stopping smoking, taking more exercise, moderate alcohol intake, losing weight and adopting a low fat/low salt diet will prevent many illnesses. Losing weight is difficult but brings many important health benefits and I welcome this initiative to assist people.”
A detailed evaluation of the pilot will be carried out and the results used to inform the success of the GP Referral Scheme.
Dr McClean concluded: “We look forward to seeing the results of the pilot scheme which will inform further development of effective approaches to support people to manage their weight across Northern Ireland.”