More than £6.5million is being invested in combatting obesity and diabetes in Wales, in a bid to support those most likely to be severely affected by the pandemic.
The funding, outlined following the Welsh Government’s Budget, will be targeted at both children and older people to support them in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
It comes ahead of the publication of the refreshed 2021-22 Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales (HW:HW) Delivery Plan on 18 March, in light of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The funding will be made up of £5.5m going towards specific HW:HW programmes and £1m towards a pre-diabetes programme.
Over £4m will go into developing a system-based approach which will contribute to preventing illness and reducing the impact of poor health and inequality, and allow health boards to develop their services in line with a revised obesity pathway.
More than £600,000 will go towards improving physical inactivity amongst older people, which will help support recovery from the pandemic to encourage healthy behaviours, as well as improving the health of those most likely to be severely affected by coronavirus.
Sport Wales will work through Local Authorities to deliver targeted provision of physical activity opportunities to over 60s who are currently inactive or the least active.
Among the local authority areas that has been able to begin their enhanced over 60s programme already with online workouts is Carmarthenshire.
Earlier this year, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, made a virtual visit to a Carmarthenshire County Council ‘Actif Anywhere’ online session to sample what’s on offer.
In a multi-pronged approach, more than £600,000 will also be targeted at improving the health of children and young people where there are higher levels of health inequalities and a high proportion of the child population who are obese.
Three pilots will be run to learn how to help families engage with the support available and drive behavioural change, in an effort to tackle the stigma of childhood obesity and families being reluctant to engage with support and advice services.
Pippa Britton, one of the Healthy Weight Cymru Ambassadors, said: “As someone with a disability, I know that maintaining a healthy weight and being active can sometimes seem like an uphill struggle, and the last thing we want to have to do is face any struggle alone.
“The pandemic has been really isolating and that hasn’t helped, especially in the dark winter months when it is hard to get outside.
“I think it is really great that the Welsh Government has realised this and the funding through Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales will go a long way towards supporting change.”
A further £1million funding has been outlined to support the development of trials of a pre-diabetes prevention programme. The funding will support robust testing of trial areas over a two year period, before it can be scaled up and a preventative intervention programme run across Wales.
Research has shown there is good evidence that identifying pre-diabetes can strongly influence behavioural change and produces high motivational levels to enable change. It is hoped this will meet the challenge of rising Type-2 Diabetes, improving the health of the population affected and providing value based healthcare in the system.
For 2019-20, there were approximately 192,000 people in Wales with type 2 diabetes – around 7% of the adult population in Wales.
Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Eluned Morgan, said: “We have seen the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate who it targets, but those who are in poor health are much more likely to be severely affected by this awful virus.
“By striving to improve the health of the elderly who are inactive, we can help them reach a healthy weight and reduce the chances of them facing further health problems.
“We are also committed to tackling childhood obesity and breaking the stigma of families who are afraid of reaching out for the help and intervention available when they need it.
“We know there are high rates of diabetes in Wales and hope this funding will allow us to take early action to prevent illness, as well as reduce the impact of poor health and inequality.
“This funding will help us achieve our goals in the Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales programme and our efforts to combat obesity and diabetes.”
(Lead image: Artem Podrez / Pexels.com)