In this post we continue the blog series marking the launch of the Obesity Empowerment Network Strategic Plan 2020-2023 in which we meet the individuals who developed it. This time we are speaking with Maggie Clinton, OEN UK Founding Member and Trustee, about why OEN UK is working to improve preventative and treatment strategies for obesity.

Why is OEN UK working to improve preventative and treatment strategies for obesity in the UK?

We are a Network of individuals who are aware, from personal or professional perspective, of the challenges that people living with excess weight face. These challenges include difficulties in accessing treatment. My personal experience of living with obesity is my main motivation in working to improve preventative and treatment strategies. I want to influence those in power to commit to developing weight management strategies which ensure that the next generation is healthier and can get the best out of life.

Current obesity statistics are of concern and highlight that  more children in primary school than ever before are living with overweight or obesity. Without a shift in thinking in terms of preventative measures, the current ‘obesity crisis’ seen in the adult population will become unmanageable. We don’t have a choice: excess weight leads to poor health, even if it is not apparent for some time.

OEN’s trustees are made up of both professionals and those of us who live with obesity. This ‘union of minds’ has allowed dialogue between patients and professionals in a way that is simply not always possible in a clinical situation. By learning from each other, we have been able to develop a clear strategy to move our work forward with one voice.

How is OEN UK working to improve preventative and treatment strategies?

OEN’s strength comes from the balance between the voice of professional and champion trustees. United by a common cause, we address those in power at a local and national level to help improve the lives of people living with obesity. 

We contribute to the development of preventative and treatment strategies at government level. This involves responding to consultations on proposed policies, campaigns and initiatives and contributing to UK reports. It is essential that those in government understand the complexity of obesity and show commitment to the development of a diversity of services to meet the complex needs of people living with obesity.

There is a great deal of inequality in terms of access to services for people living with obesity. If you have obesity, you are often made to feel like a burden and that it is your fault that you have a health need. It is painful growing up being stigmatised at every stage and in every area of life: school, employment, health and social care services and even on public transport for taking up room on a seat.

OEN champions challenge such issues in their own localities, and give talks and presentations to policymakers, service commissioners, surgeons, physicians, GP’s, dietitians, nurses and many others including researchers at a regional, national and international level. We seek to break down stigma, making access to services fairer for everyone. 

Champions can also bring an extremely valuable perspective to the development of care provision. We know, for example, that for a person who has had life-long or long-term obesity, there is limited support for weight loss maintenance. We know first-hand that this person may lose weight initially but then put it all back on perhaps with more and this experience is psychologically devastating. I believe that as Champions we can bring change and contribute to the provision of better care for people living with obesity.

Why is OEN UK committed to providing clear, visible information regarding treatment options and expected standards of care for people with overweight or obesity?

OEN is made up of experts from across the sciences – medical, psychological and nutritional – who are up to date on the biological and psychological factors causing obesity, and their impact upon individuals. Combined with the lived experiences of champions, OEN is thoroughly equipped to provide the latest information about developments in treatment and contribute to improving standards of care for people with obesity. 

We are aware that for those of us living with obesity, taking the first step of reaching out for help can be the hardest. This is why we want to provide clear and accessible information to support those affected by obesity to understand the condition, the treatments available and the services they can access. 

Where might someone find this information?

OEN has a user-friendly website which provides up to date information about obesity and treatments currently available. There is also information about how to access treatment. Questions can be asked through the OEN enquiries email contact, and individual trustees can also be contacted. 

How can OEN UK help someone living with overweight or obesity?

OEN’s aim is to inform and empower those living with obesity. We can tell you about your rights, the services available, and guide you as to what you can do and to whom you can write. We will listen and encourage you to stand up for your right to access health services. 

The very fact that you are asking for help is a monumental development on your part. It is so difficult to admit you need help and harder still to ask for help.

As an OEN champion who did not seek help until I was almost 60 years of age, I will do my very best, as will my colleagues, to empower you to take control and fight for your rights to the treatment you need.

Maggie Clinton is one of the founding members of OEN UK, a Lead Champion and Trustee for Champion Recruitment and Development. Maggie has now retired from her nursing career, having spent many years working with children, young people and adults providing care and training. She draws on this professional experience alongside her personal experience of obesity in her work for OEN UK.

This is the fourth in a series of blogs celebrating the launch of the OEN UK Strategic Plan 2020-2023. Other blogs include An Introduction to the Strategic Plan, Five Minutes with Pinki Sahota, and People, Patients and Professionals.

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