Fat chance?

Did you see that Telegraph story about the government’s huge 9.6 billion pound spending on obesity?

How could you not? Marcus linked to it here having spotted it on a couple of reactionary weblogs.

My first reaction on reading the report was – it must be a mis-print. 9.6 million would sound reasonable after all.

But this is what the Telegraph claimed on Friday: The Government is losing its war against flab after spending £9.6 billion on projects to tackle obesity across all departments.

British Spin has done some maths though and reaches this conclusion:

For perspective $9.48 billion would take up the entire spending last year of the Departments of Rural affairs, Culture, Media and Sport and the entire public health budget. Oh and still have some left over to cover all the Foreign office and all of Northern Ireland’s spending, and still have half a billion left.

9.6 billion? Don’t make me laugh.

So where might this figure have come from?

It appears that the Telegraph article was prompted by a report from the NHS’s Health Development Agency. I’ve spent some time going through their press release and accompanying 50 odd page report and there is no sign of the magic 9.6 billion figure. Nor does the amazing total appear in their magazine article either.

But wait. Here’s a press release from the Department of Health

The overall cost to the NHS and the wider economy is estimated at £2.6 billion a year.

Times that by four and you get somewhere just over your magic 9.6 billion pounds.

But of course that is not government spending on obesity awareness programmes and projects at all.

That is the cost to companies in days lost through illness, the cost to hospitals of dealing with heart attack cases etc.

So that can’t be the answer to where the Telegraph got their nine billion figure from. Can it?

Interestingly the Telegraph returned to the topic of obesity yesterday and had this to say:

Obesity is said to cost the country more than £2 billion a year, with £500 million being spent directly by the NHS.

Again this is ‘cost to the country’ something completely different to the ‘projects to tackle obesity across all departments’ that the paper originally claimed.

Of course I could be completely wrong here and the Telegraph could have evidence of the nine billion worth of anti-obesity projects that they forgot to give details of.

Or maybe the Department of Health are just revealing to certain people that they have spent this amazing sum.

After all Stephen Pollard tells us today that: The Department of Health claims that £9.6 billion has been spent on projects that reduce obesity across all government departments.

Do they?

Update Spin has called the Department of Health press office who know nothing about their own amazing ‘claim’.