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Editor's letter

Weight loss drugs

The arrival of weight loss drugs could remove a USP for some health club operators, but our wider purpose is evolving to be far more holistic and also prevention- and wellness-based

Health clubs can deliver wrap-around obesity interventions photo:SHUTTERSTOCK/SeventyFour

The UK government is exploring the use of weight loss drugs, such as Semaglutide – dispensed under the brand name Wegovy – in a large-scale £40m pilot designed to establish the optimum way to deliver them to the target population.

When prescribed alongside a healthy diet, physical activity and behavioural support, people with obesity can lose up to 15 per cent of their bodyweight in a year on Semaglutide, making it an attractive proposition for a health service grappling with a million obesity-related admissions a year, costing £6.5bn.

NICE originally concluded that Semaglutide should only be made available through specialist weight management services, which tend to be based in hospitals, but the scale of the obesity challenge means this approach wouldn’t deliver the volume required, so other solutions are being investigated, leaving the door wide open for health clubs and leisure centres to become delivery partners.

Getting involved with the Wegovy pilots would be a powerful way to make our intentions and potential clear to the health service, with all the opportunities that would create for the sector to mature, raise standards, gain new income streams and deepen its levels of professionalism.

Writing on page 72, Andy King – chair of GM Active – makes the case for the physical activity sector stepping up and applying to take part in the pilots, saying we can deliver levels of wrap-around care, such as exercise interventions, that no other sector can match.

This opportunity comes at a time when disruptive questions are being asked about our wider purpose, with momentum increasingly behind a move from being a predominantly ‘vanity-based’ industry, to one which is focused on wellness, taking us closer to the health service.

Evidence shows many consumers’ needs align with this, with a significant percentage now exercising as much for their mental as their physical health and with an increasing focus on their vitality and overall wellbeing.

We must hear this feedback and adjust our business models, so we tune into wellness and earn a reputation akin to that enjoyed by disciplines such as physiotherapy.

At both the Elevate event and Evolve conference (see page 50), the mood in the room was very much that the sector needs to formulate a new vocabulary to describe what it can do – both for consumers and for government – and that this purpose must be centred around wellness, prevention and holistic lifestyle change.

We begin the debate about our wider role in delivering health interventions on page 68 and welcome your comments for our letters page We’re also interested to hear if you see the arrival of Wegovy as a threat or an opportunity.

Email [email protected]

Liz Terry, editor
[email protected]

Originally published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 6
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