Weight stigma common among health professionals

Some do not consider obesity a disease
  • Deborah Condon

Some healthcare professionals do not consider obesity a disease and do not treat it in the same way they would treat other chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, experts have warned.

According to the Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (IrSPEN), weight stigma is prevalent in Ireland, with many obese people believing that their weight is their fault.

IrSPEN pointed out that this can be compounded by the the behaviour of some professionals who do not think it is worthwhile treating these patients. As a result, some are prevented from accessing care which may not only treat their obesity, but also some of its complications, such as type 2 diabetes.

IrSPEN explained that obese people with type 2 diabetes can significantly improve their diabetes control, or even reverse the condition, if they can lose 15% of their body weight. This even applies to people who are on insulin and have poor diabetes control.

"Access to evidence-based treatments is severely restricted, not because of a lack of expertise in the healthcare system, but because up to now, it was not thought worthwhile treating patients who suffer with the disease of obesity," explained Prof Carel le Roux of IrSPEN.

Obesity-related complications currently cost the State over €1.1 billion per year. Some 65% of these costs are indirect, such as productivity losses from work absenteeism. IrSPEN emphasised that if treatment is made more accessible to patients, major savings could be made.

It made its call to coincide with World Obesity Day (October 11) and to highlight a meeting at St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin, which will give both patients and healthcare professionals the chance to learn about new treatments for type 2 diabetes that are proven to cause weight loss.

"World Obesity Day and #EndWeightStigma offers us an opportune time to reset our moral compass. Using the science that provides the evidence base for our modern treatments, we can stop blaming patients and start helping them gain health and functionality. This will allow them to play with their children or grandchildren or even to go out with their friends free of the fear of being stigmatised," commented Ms Helen Heneghan, a metabolic surgeon with the St Vincent's Healthcare Group.

The meeting at St Vincent's takes place on Thursday, October 11, from 7pm to 8pm at the Old Lecture Theatre. Attendance is free of charge and no reservation is necessary. Speakers will include Prof le Roux, Ms Helen Heneghan and Dr Werd Al-Najim. For more information, email metabolic.medicine@ucd.ie

Meanwhile, if you are living with obesity and type 2 diabetes and would like to find out more about how you might achieve weight loss, visit itsnotyourfault.ie


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