Failure to recognise obesity as disease has cost HSE €56m

A failure to recognise obesity as a disease has cost the HSE €56m.

Obesity experts are calling on the Government to implement a treatment programme to reduce the financial and societal burden from obesity-related illnesses.

Ireland is on course to be the fattest country in Europe by 2030, with 1.1 million obese adults.

It costs almost €1.2bn a year to directly treat obesity related illnesses in Ireland, where one in four adults and one in five children is obese.

The Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism wants the Government to implement a national treatment strategy, that recognises obesity as a disease.

Helen Heneghan, Consultant Bariatric Surgeon, said: "It's a disease of the brain, a disease that affects our hunger and our appetite, a disease of the way the gut talks to the brain - so it's not a lifestyle choice. We have to correct people's perception."

Consultant in Obesity Francis Finucane, says society is to blame too: "A sort of irresponsible society that allows inexpensive junk food to be marketed to children and freely available to children, and also the opportunities for physical activity aren't as good as they could be and as they are in other European countries."

Doing at least 400 operations a year over the past 10 years could have saved the HSE €56m, due to the high cost of treating obesity related illnesses like type 2 diabetes.

Professor Finucane ,who works at Galway University Hospital, says they have the people, but the resources are not there.

"We have the surgeons, the dieticians, the psychologists to see these patients - we have the expertise we don't have the capacity and that's what we need," he said.

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