Public patients denied effective obesity treatment

September 19, 2005

Public hospital patients are often denied access to one of the most effective forms of weight loss treatment Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding (LAGB) surgery, a Monash expert says.

In an article published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia, the director of the Centre for Obesity Research and Education, Professor Paul O'Brien says LAGB is the most effective treatment for obesity, resulting in improved health and better quality of life for patients, including the reduction or eradication of hypertension, diabetes and asthma.

However, obese patients are being discriminated against on the grounds of their economic status, with uninsured patients having poor access to treatment, he says.

"This is the only proven method of weight loss for severely obese patients, and yet it is not available to those who need it most," he says. "Our public hospitals are failing to offer appropriate care for the severely obese in the community."

More than 20 per cent of Australian adults - an estimated 2.6 million people - and seven per cent of teenagers are considered obese. Obesity is more prevalent among low socio-economic groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and rural women.

Although prevention is the preferred method for tackling obesity, hospitals and governments need to seriously consider treatments such as LAGB surgery to stem the growing levels of obesity in the community, Professor O'Brien says.

His research team has treated more than 2700 people using LAGB since 1994.

With Associate Professor John Dixon and Ms Wendy Brown, Professor O'Brien has assessed the treatments and interventions for obesity including lifestyle changes, drug therapy, endoscopic procedures and surgery. Although lifestyle changes seem simple to prescribe, the researchers have found it is very unlikely to achieve sustainable outcomes. Bariatric surgery provides the most effective treatment currently available, they say.

Professor O'Brien says the medical community needs to push the public hospitals to recognise the morbidity of obesity, the options for effective management, the impressive health benefits that are achieved by weight loss and the role surgery can play in overcoming obesity.
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For more information contact Ms. Diane Squires in the Media Communications Office on 61-399-059-315

Research Australia

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