80,000 need surgery to tackle morbid obesity

UP to 80,000 people are now morbidly obese and in need of surgery, a health expert has warned.

An estimated 2pc of the population have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 40, significantly higher than the optimal scale of between 18.5 and 25, and placing them firmly in the morbidly obese category.

Now a specialist is calling for more bariatric surgeries — operations including fitting gastric bands and stomach reductions — to be carried out in a bid to cut the mounting cost to the taxpayer.

Dr Francis Finucane, a consultant endocrinologist who specialises in obesity, said carrying out more such surgeries could cut costs significantly.

He compared the problem to the obesity problems being faced in England, after a report in 2010 there found that offering bariatric surgeries to 25pc of those eligible would save the government £1.3bn (€1.56bn) over three years.

This was achieved by patients returning to work and a drop in benefits being paid out.

“The prevalence of obesity in Ireland is pretty much the same as in England and the costs associated with it would be similar. We can’t afford not to provide this intervention,” Dr Finucane said.

Only two public hospitals in Ireland provide such services, — the national unit at St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, Dublin; and Galway University Hospital.

As the demand for bariatric surgery increases, patients are now waiting up to two years. Dr Finucane works at the Galway clinic, which carried out 40 operations on morbidly obese patients last year and 100 over the past three years.

While the operations are publicly funded, Dr Finucane said they offer significant savings to the State by reducing long-term health problems and allowing patients to return to work. He now wants to see more emphasis placed on such surgeries to deal with the backlog.

“We are getting busier and referral rates are up, there is a two-year waiting list for surgery here at present,” he said.

Dr Finucane will be speaking at an obesity conference being held at NUI, Galway, this week. ‘The Obesity Problem: Insights and analysis from economics, medicine and public health’, will also hear from Professor John Cawley from Cornell University, widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on obesity and the economy..

The conference, on Friday, will also look at the extent of the obesity problem and the economic costs.

Courtesy of Caroline Crawford, Independant.ie

79% of over-50s obese or overweight - study

More than a third of over-50s in Ireland are obese, a major new report on ageing has revealed.

A further 44% are overweight, while problem drinking and reliance on multiple medications is also on the rise among older people.
Despite the obvious health risks, the over-50s generally report high levels of satisfaction with quality of life and their incomes have remained stable.

The findings are revealed in the latest report by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda), a national survey of more than 8,000 people aged 50 and over.

The study was led by researchers in Trinity College Dublin.

Participants were interviewed between April 2012 and January 2013, during, as researchers note, a period of considerable social and economic change in Ireland.

Minister for Health James Reilly said the latest report flags up serious concerns about the health of the over-50s.

“I am encouraged by some of the findings in this report, particularly those that show that, in general, the over-50s enjoy a good quality of life and report their health as excellent or very good,” he said.

“However, I am also struck by some worrying trends, particularly the levels of non-communicable diseases and their co-morbidities. The finding that 35% of the over-50s are obese with a further 44% overweight is another serious cause for concern.”

Obesity is strongly associated with heart disease and diabetes. The report also found about one third of the over-50s report low levels of physical activity, with more women than men reporting low exercise. More than half of those aged 75 and over have arthritis.

Smoking among over-50s is down from just over 18% to 16.5% since participants were last interviewed in 2009 and 2010. Problem drinking has risen for both men and women – from 17% to 22% in men and from 8% to 11% in women. Those taking five or more medications has increased from 21% to 26%.

Courtesy of RTE.ie