Report suggests 79% of those over 50 are obese or overweight

Tuesday 22 July 2014 09.29
The report highlights the burden obesity places on the health system
The report highlights the burden obesity places on the health system

New research suggests nearly four out of five Irish adults over the age of 50 are overweight or obese.

A report released today by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), led by Trinity College Dublin, also highlights the serious burden that levels of obesity and overweight are placing on Ireland's health services.

The TILDA research shows 79% of people over-50 are overweight or obese.

The report, which surveyed 8,000 people nationally, found obese older adults visit their GP more frequently and take more medications.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said the findings of the report did not come as a surprise.

Mr Varadkar said that most people could address weight issues through lifestyle change, healthy eating and increased exercise.

When asked about a possible sugar tax Mr Varadkar said he hadn't studied it in detail.

He said he was not in favour of high taxes, adding that he would give more detailed consideration to it later.

Mr Varadkar also said that the Government can not make people skinny.

TILDA Research Director and co-author of the report Dr Anne Nolan said the findings were a cause for concern.

She said that they come at a time when the Irish health service is faced with delivering services with fewer resources.

"A greater focus on health promotion and prevention is required to not only improve population health and well-being, but also to ensure the future sustainability of our health system."

Over 200 wait for gastric bypass surgery

Separately, the number of people on the waiting list for gastric bypass surgery at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin has risen above 200 for the first time, following the cancellation of bariatric surgery at the facility.

A team of medics overseeing the weight management service at St Vincent's and St Columcille's hospitals has written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Varadkar describing the cancellations as "unethical and discriminatory".

They are calling for a meeting to discuss the cancellation of the surgeries.

Clinicians received an email last week advising them that following a Health Service Executive directive, bariatric surgery at the hospital was required to cease until further notice.

The only other public hospital in the country providing gastric bypass surgery is University Hospital Galway, but this also has a large waiting list.

RTÉ News has seen a letter sent to the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and HSE management in which the obesity team described the lack of communication with patients as "disrespectful, demoralising and indicative of dysfunction".

It calls for a meeting regarding the "immediate resumption of bariatric surgery" and states that the surgeries are not cosmetic or an easy option for weight loss.

Each surgery costs around €12,000 to €15,000 but can have major benefits by reducing a patient's health complications.

Gastric bypass surgery reduces the size of the stomach and allows patients to lose significant weight.

Patients initially attend a weight management clinic at St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown, Dublin.

Around half are then referred for surgery at St Vincent's.

In a statement, the Health Service Executive said it had transferred surgery from St Columcille's to St Vincent's and typically St Columcille's carried out 20 cases per year.

"We are advised by St Vincent's that the hospital have provided in excess of this number so far this year."

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Donal O'Shea, endocrinologist at St Vincent's, said following the suspension of surgeries the numbers on the waiting list for operations now exceeds 200.

A number of patients had been given dates for operations later this year. These have now been cancelled until further notice. Forty patients have been on the surgery waiting list since 2011.

Mr O'Shea said patients were given no warning and have heard nothing from the HSE.

He suggested the delay may mean some are entitled to have the operation overseas at greater cost to the State.

He added that international guidelines quoted in HSE literature say outcomes improve when surgeons carry out 50 bariatric operations per year.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, the Taoiseach said it was an issue to be dealt with by clinicians.

"Clinicians know best about the urgency of carrying out an operation, if it is to be a life-saving operation, and I am sure it is on that basis they prioritise them.''

Denying he was insulting anyone, Mr Kenny added that "prevention is better than cure".

Mr Varadkar has said operations were performed in two hospitals the same number of operations would be performed this year as last year.

Keywords: obesity