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Who’s who in obesity? A medical market research guide

What are the facts?

Obesity is an increasingly common problem here in the UK – in fact obesity levels have more than trebled in the last 30 years, prompting fears that we are becoming the “fat man of Europe“. With 24.9% of the UK population being obese, we’re ahead of countries such as Spain (24.1), Germany (21.3%), Sweden (16.6%) and France (15.6%). And with current estimates predicting that more than half of the population could be obese by 2050, obesity is a very real long-term problem.

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Due to our sedentary modern lifestyles and an over-reliance on cars, TVs, computers, desk-bound jobs and high-calorie convenience food, obesity is the biggest public health crisis in the UK today. And with obesity affecting around 25% of adults and an alarming 20% of children aged 10-11, without action, obesity-related diseases are estimated to cost a whopping ë£39.9 billion a year.

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of a number of serious illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and even cancer. In fact, obesity has been blamed for about 30,000 deaths a year in the UK, with 9,000 of those taking place before retirement age – making obesity as much as a serious health threat as smoking.

Who treats it?

Obesity can impact all doctors and areas of the NHS in some way. For example, someone who is obese and needs surgery is going to need additional consultation to lose weight ahead of the surgery due to safety reasons. Although, the main healthcare professionals that treat the majority of obese patients are GPs and nurses. However, as mentioned earlier, some obesity patients may also need specialist surgery.

General Practitioners

There are over 50,000 GPs in the UK and over 3,500 on the GKA database. GPs assess general health and identify the cause of weight gain and any underlying health issues as well as providing advice about losing weight safely by eating a healthy diet and taking part in regular exercise. If the patient’s obesity leads to other health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure, they are referred to specialists for further tests.

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Here at GKA, we have over 2,000 nurses on our database. Practice nurses involved in the care of those with long-term conditions play an important part in obesity management because they already have a trusting relationship with the patient. In a primary care setting, nurses can assess and identify the reasons for obesity before helping patients follow weight loss plans, monitoring their progress and encouraging them to lose weight safely.

Bariatric Surgeons

When a patient meets a specific set of criteria or has a BMI of over 50, they can be offered weight loss surgery by specialist bariatric surgeons to help get their weight under control. However, with just 161 bariatric surgeons working in 137 hospitals across the UK, they can be difficult to reach for medical market research studies.

What medication is available?

Out of over 120 different anti-obesity medicines that have been tested in clinical trials, only one – orlistat – has been proven to be both safe and effective. It works by blocking the action of a protein used to digest fat so undigested fat isn’t absorbed into the body but passed out in stools, preventing approximately one-third of the fat from food being digested.

Patients take one orlistat capsule before, during, or up to one hour after each meal, taking a maximum of three capsules in a day. However although it helps patients to avoid gaining weight, it doesn’t help them to lose weight so they must also stick to a recommended diet and exercise plan.

Who can we access for medical fieldwork?

At GKA, we have conducted over 35 obesity research projects in recent years, using as many as 250 healthcare professionals and 40 patients in just one study. Examples of projects we have undertaken include:

  • 100 GPs and 100 practice nurses for an online study
  • 32 patients for a central location study
  • 160 GPs and 80 practice nurses for a CATi study
  • 8 nurses and 15 patients in field (in both hospitals and patients’ homes)
  • Pharmacists and pharmacy assistants when needed

Why is obesity an important issue for the market research industry?

As obesity levels continue to rise, more and more pressure is put on the NHS as doctors and nurses struggle to treat more and more patients. This could result in a number of issues for medical market research as time pushed HCPs have less time for research projects, meaning we must adapt our methodologies and recruitment methods accordingly. However it’s not all doom and gloom: when it comes to patient-focused research, the rise in obesity means there are more people to reach out to, making recruitment easier.

If you’ve got a study on obesity approaching and would like to understand the numbers of specialists we can access, download our panel book now by clicking on the image:

Medical Market Research - GKA Panel Book