Report from on obesity and addiction as barriers to work

Dame Carol Black

Earlier this week, I was pleased to read the timely review from Professor Dame Carol Black into how best to support people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, or are obese, to start, return or remain in work.

This independent review provides an evidence-based analysis of the factors that stand in the way of employment and recommends practical interventions to help overcome them.

Obesity has negative impacts on health and can even be life-threatening for individuals, reducing life expectancy by an average of three years (severe obesity can reduce it by 8 to 10 years). The British Medical Association has estimated that poor diet contributes to 70,000 premature deaths a year, and the BDA’s Key Fact sheet on obesity reminds us that doing nothing is not an option:
“Being overweight or obese has adverse social consequences: discrimination, social exclusion, loss of or lower earnings and adverse economic effects in terms of working days lost and higher benefit payments. Dietitians work to prevent, intervene and research to enable individuals and groups achieve health gains”
The review highlights that obesity is associated with a wide range of risks of poor health, possibly cumulative, which can bring labour market disadvantages such as increased absenteeism and presenteeism, discrimination and stigma, and lower wages. A key recommendation is that government should ensure that there is a minimum support offer that upskills Jobcentre Plus advisors on addressing obesity, and has a referral pathway into local weight management services where obesity is identified as a barrier to work.
BDA Work Ready welcomes any inititaive which supports the use of dietitian-led clinically effective weight management services, and also the recognition of the stigma and discrimination around overweight and obesity in the review. Care should be taken when the recommendations are implemented to avoid using measures which increase this bias – a focus on ‘change of feeling’ and quality of life factors may be useful as well as weight measures.
The full report is available here.