The HSE has lost millions of euro by not implementing a national obesity treatment policy, obesity experts have said.
Ireland currently has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe, with one in four adults obese, and one in four children overweight or obese. Furthermore, some 2,000 deaths here every year are attributable to obesity.
The Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition & Metabolism (IrSPEN) has launched ‘Obesity is a Chronic Disease Requiring Treatment: A Call to Action' to coincide with European Obesity Day (May 20).
This call to action is urging the Government to implement a national obesity treatment programme, which emphasises the importance of recognising obesity as a disease of the brain.
Such a programme should ensure that people receive personalised treatment, including diet, exercise, weight loss medicine, cognitive behavioural therapy and surgery.
IrSPEN insists that the HSE could have saved millions by now if it had already done this. For example, carrying out a minimum of 400 operations annually on patients with obesity and difficult-to-control diabetes would have saved €56 million over a 10-year period, due to a reduction in diabetes medication costs alone, it claims.
IrSPEN noted that the treatment of obesity is now relatively straightforward thanks to a number of evidence-based and effective treatments that work alongside diet and exercise programmes.
According to Prof Francis Finucane, a consultant in obesity and endocrinology at Galway University Hospital, failing to accept obesity as a disease, ‘contributes to stigma, shame, stress and ultimately the worsening health of patients'.
He also noted that complications from obesity are common, costly to manage and have severe effects on a person's wellbeing.
"I have seen the benefits of dedicated obesity treatment programmes in my clinic. These programmes provide a personalised holistic approach that help patients lose 10% or more body weight, remain compliant with their weight loss regime and lower their risk of death from heart disease and stroke. By taking this personalised approach, we can greatly reduce the costs of obesity-related diseases in Ireland and drastically improve people's quality of life," he said.
Meanwhile, according to Prof Carel le Roux of the Diabetes Complications Research Centre in UCD, extensive research has shown that just two in 10 patients will respond to diet and exercise alone to achieve more than a 10% weight loss.
"Eight out of 10 need other therapies - three of these patients will respond to weight loss medication and five will respond to obesity surgery. While prevention of obesity remains key, funding also needs to be allocated to mitigate and treat the disease itself. Given the cost effectiveness of treatment programmes and the potential for net savings, the failure to invest in these treatments for suitable patients is a false economy," he commented.
The obesity call to action is supported by the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (RCPI) and the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO). It is appealing to the Government to urgently address gaps in the healthcare system that prevent people affected by obesity complications from accessing affective therapies.
Its key recommendations include:
-Highlighting that obesity is a disease
-Providing access to treatments within the HSE to provide maximum benefit to the largest number of people that will provide value, while still being cost effective
-Establishing a national obesity programme that delivers regional specialist weight management services as part of an integrated model in primary, secondary and community care.
-Educating healthcare professionals that obesity is a disease and can benefit from treatment.
-Increasing public awareness and education about this topic.
IrSPEN's call to action can be viewed in full here
Everywhere you go, in any town in Ireland, there are rows and rows of coffee shops, promoting coffee's, any kind you want, with cake, chocolate, sugary snacks, in fact, everything you want, filled with sugar, in fact, everything you want, and unhealthy!
If the Government want to get a handle on obesity, they must promote healthy eating/living!
In all these coffee shops, there is no such thing as a salad sandwich, ham, cheese, tomato, or beans on toast!
Most work places do not even have canteens, or gyms, which are not a luxury and promote a healthy lifestyle and healthy empoyees...