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Weight loss and your Pharmacy

Published on 3rd October 2019 - Last update on 4th July 2020

We are in the middle of a pandemic, and many of us have not even noticed. But it could mean additional profitable work for your pharmacy. 

The disease in question is obesity. The number of overweight adults in the UK continues to rise with 26% classified as obese. Adult obesity has been a growing problem for the NHS for some years already, costing over £5bn a year and rising. 

It’s not just a matter of aesthetics - although many younger people are concerned about weight loss. Carrying excess pounds can impact many aspects of physical and even mental health. Obesity can cause type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, breast cancer, bowel cancer and stroke. It can lead to psychological issues such as depression and low self-esteem too.

Obesity is one of the main causes of early morbidity. Around 30,000 people die as a direct result of obesity every year, and many more suffer ongoing health problems as a result.

Being overweight now affects all ages, thanks to the easy availability of calories and a more sedentary lifestyle for most of us.  As many as one in ten reception aged children and one in five Year Six children are now classed as obese - and there is evidence that the problem is growing. In the 1980s just 6% of men and 8% of women were obese, according to a Foresight obesity report, which has projected that by 2050, 60% of the UK population could be obese, creating a cost to the economy of £45.5bn.

The government has started to recognise the importance of obesity as a threat to the nation’s health and to NHS coffers. It has implemented a range of strategies, from introducing a soft drinks industry levy to warning labelling on packaging and encouraging schools to focus on education on the importance of healthy eating and regular exercise.

Healthy living advice, behavioural change therapy and preventative health initiatives are also part of the strategy for change.

As a frontline service, community pharmacists may be in the best position to offer patients help with their weight.

Measuring obesity

The most common method of measuring obesity is Body Mass Index (BMI). In adults, a BMI of 25kg/m2 to 29.9kg/m2 indicates overweight, and 30kg/m2 or higher is considered obese. For men, a waist less than 94cm is desirable, 94-102cm considered high and 102cm very high. In women, a desirable waist is less than 80cm, 80-88cm high and more than 88cm considered in the obese scale.

There is a great deal that you as a pharmacist can do to help. Patients who receive one to one support in weight loss programmes with pharmacy advisers can achieve an average 3% weight loss, in line with national guidance.

Of course, obesity is an extremely complex condition with is no single cause, and biological, physiological, psycho-social, behavioural and environmental factors all contribute to its aetiology. This means that a successful intervention may require support with nutrition, physical activity and behaviour modification. Setting up a weight loss clinic can help you give the necessary advice and support. Individual and group sessions can be popular ways to build an awareness of the effects of obesity and the ways to combat it. 

It will, of course, have the added benefit of bringing in extra patients to your pharmacy.

A weight loss clinic can provide:

  • Information about adopting a healthy lifestyle
  • Practical advice, with diet plans and slimming products
  • Emotional support
  • Advice on appropriate exercise
  • Education about potential life-threatening conditions 

Families, as well as individuals, should be able to benefit, and clients should be able to access your programme via self-referral or - once your service is established - with health professional referral.

Looking to expand your offering? Wanting to increase your pharmacy's income streams? Find out more about funding to expand your pharmacy

Setting up a Weight Loss Clinic?

A weight loss clinic lets you provide a range of non – medical services to clients, with both individual and group counselling, menu and exercise planning and weight and body measurement monitoring.

Naturally, where it is appropriate, you will also be able to explain to customers what you can do to help them with over-the-counter solutions such as diet supplements. But you need to be clear that when an individual has recognised that they want to achieve a healthy BMI, it is not necessarily just about losing weight. You may need to encourage them to make lifestyle changes so that weight loss is sustainable.

If you do decide to set up a clinic, you may be able to look at a number of revenue streams. A subscription-based service, where clients pay in advance for weekly sessions, is among the most popular models. The amount you might charge will depend on your location. One pharmacy-based weight loss clinic in Hertfordshire offers a 10-week programme of one-to-one sessions for around £240. However, this might not be practical in every location. You should consider the costs to your business of providing the service, and ensure that it is viable and affordable for your customer base.

What about the costs?

Innovation in testing technology is bringing more and more tests to your pharmacy. People can benefit from simple and safe testing procedures that give results in a few minutes with high levels of accuracy, and offering this service lets you make the most of your professional skills and your practice. But there will be costs to cover. 

Staff will need to be trained, a private consulting room will be essential, and you may need to invest in suitable equipment for measuring body mass. 

Against this, you may be able to realise an income form providing the service, increased opportunities for sales, and increased footfall with new customers attracted to your shop. 

At Rangewell, we have financial specialists working to support the pharmaceutical sector. We recognise the scale of the task and of the level of funding you may need to set up a new service, with training for a team and a private consultation room.

Fortunately, we also know the solutions. It means that, by calling on us at Rangewell, you can be sure of getting the most cost-effective ways to raise the finance you need.

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