Ireland called out for having lowest EU level of public treatment for obesity

Ireland called out for having lowest EU level of public treatment for obesity

Call on health service to treat obesity as a disease

Ireland has been criticised for having the lowest spend on public treatment of obesity in Europe – and also for failing to recognise the condition as a disease.

Speaking today on World Obesity Day, the Irish Society of Nutrition and Metabolism (IrSPEN) said the HSE does not recognise that more than a million people in Ireland live with a treatable disease – and this leads to a major shortage of public treatment, and a two-tier system.

IrSPEN spokesperson Professor Carel le Roux said the fact that Ireland’s public health system has the lowest funding per capita for obesity treatment in Europe is directly linked to it not being recognised as a chronic disease.

“Those who cannot afford to pay privately have significantly less access to obesity treatment. On World Obesity Day, IrSPEN is calling on the HSE come into line with all our European partners and to make obesity treatments a part of universal public healthcare.

“Proven treatments, both surgery and cost-effective medicines, should be available to all based upon need. By not providing treatments, the HSE ends up paying much more for the long-term complications of obesity.

“Existing ‘eat less and move more’ public awareness programmes are important as prevention strategies, but once someone is obese then this is ineffective for them. The 50,000 Irish children who are already obese need treatment,” he said.

Consultant Surgeon at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and IrSPEN member Professor Helen Heneghan said Ireland had been at the forefront of developing cost-effective obesity treatments, including drugs and operations. These interventions are proven to achieve weight loss and prevent follow-on complications such as diabetes. Yet they are not readily available.

“Blaming individuals as the sole cause of obesity is an ineffective and flawed strategy which leads to health disparities. Obesity is a response to biologically determined body weight regulation, and not gluttony or laziness.

“Relying on willpower and moral strength to change biology has not been an effective management strategy – and resulted in an exponential increase in people with obesity.”

Professor Heneghan added that recognition of obesity as a disease and making treatment universally available would also prevent cancer for some patients.

Professor le Roux concluded: “With effective treatment the burden of this chronic disease can be reversed in a similar way as has been achieved with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

“We have the cost-effective tools and the know-how to do this, all we need is a change of policy from the HSE coming into line with other healthcare systems across Europe. Also, the Department of Health already does recognise obesity as a disease, which is an anomaly.”

Internationally, the World Obesity Federation is today calling on the United Nations to declare obesity a disease requiring universal access to treatment in all healthcare systems.

Globally there are an estimated 650 million people living with obesity and this has tripled in the past 40 years. The condition is particularly on the rise among children, those in lower and middle income households and in urban settings.

Media Coverage:

The Irish Times – Ireland has lowest level of public treatment for obesity in the EU

The Irish Examiner – Ireland spends least across EU on obesity treatment

Active Link – Ireland called out for having lowest EU level of public treatment for obesity

 WORLD OBESITY DAY 2019 – Friday 11th October

It’s Not Your Fault