Psychology and World Obesity Day

Sunday 11 October was World Obesity Day. To mark it, I was one of seven psychologists who signed this letter to the press:

Patients who are obese, as well as those who are affected by diabetes, chronic pain and other physical health conditions linked to obesity often have a combination of a high body mass index, unhealthy lifestyle and difficulty in making behavioural changes which would help reduce their symptoms. 

Practitioner psychologists have a crucial role to play in helping patients to make long term positive changes to their unhelpful and unhealthy behaviours.  Indeed, there is extensive evidence to show that psychologists have a key role to play in helping patients to move towards healthier and happier outcomes.

Given psychologists' expertise in facilitating behaviour change, the strong evidence-base demonstrating their impact and effectiveness and the likelihood that health psychology input could reduce the burden on GPs; we would like to draw attention to the current shortage of practitioner psychologists in the NHS and call for this situation to be redressed.

The full list of signatories was Dr Max Benjamin, Imperial College London; Dr Angela Busutill, Sussex Partnership NHS Trust; Dr Paul Chadwick, Royal Free Hospital; Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, President, British Psychological Society; Professor Stephen Joseph, University of Nottingham; Fenella Lemonsky, Imperial College; Professor Daryl O'Connor, University of Leeds; and Professor Karen Rodham, University of Staffordshire.

Our letter drew on the Society’s 2011 report, ‘Obesity in the UK: A psychological perspective’, the result of cross-discipline working group including clinical, educational, health, counselling and sport and exercise psychologists. It highlighted the added value that psychological and therapeutic approaches can offer when integrated effectively with other obesity treatments.