IrSPEN launch a 'Call to Action' on obesity in Ireland


The Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition & Metabolism (IrSPEN) launched 'Obesity is a Chronic Disease requiring Treatment: A Call to Action' ahead of European Obesity Day on 20th May 2017.

Obesity experts called on the government to implement a national obesity treatment programme to reduce the financial and societal burden from obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnoea, cancer and fertility issues. By recognising obesity as a disease of the brain and treating people with personalised treatment programmes, including diet, exercise, weight loss medicine, cognitive behavioural therapy, and surgery the HSE could have saved millions.

For example, doing a minimum of 400 operations per year on patients with obesity and difficult to control diabetes would have saved €56 million over a 10-year period from a reduction in diabetes medication costs alone. * This call to action is supported by The Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (RCPI) and The European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO).

“Through extensive medical research, we now know that only two in ten patients will respond to diet and exercise alone to achieve more than a 10% body weight loss. Eight out of ten need other therapies: three of these patients will respond to weight loss medication and five will respond to obesity surgery”, says Professor Carel le Roux, Diabetes Complications Research Centre, Conway Institute, UCD and IrSPEN board member. “While prevention of obesity remains key, funding also needs to be allocated to mitigate and treat the disease itself. Given the cost effectiveness of treatment programmes and the potential for net savings, the failure to invest in these treatments for suitable patients is a false economy.”

Ireland has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe and it affects more than one million people here: one in four adults are obese and one in four children are overweight or obese making them highly likely to become obese adults. Every year in Ireland approximately 2,000 deaths are attributable to obesity. According to the WHO, 65% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity. The current cost of treating obesity-related diseases here is approximately €1.16 billion per annum: 35% of this cost is allocated to hospital care and medication costs and 65% is from indirect costs including productivity losses from absenteeism.

Mortality associated with obesity are treatable with a 10% loss in body weight. In Ireland, approximately one in 20 adults have an obesity-related disease such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnoea or subfertility which will improve if they can lose and sustain 10% reduction in their body weight. Treatment of obesity is now relatively straightforward as a result of several evidence based and effective treatments that work alongside diet and exercise programmes.

The full IrSPEN call to action can be downloaded on

* If Ireland treated 400 patients per year with obesity complicated by difficult to control type 2 diabetes – who typically have a direct healthcare cost in medication more than €4000/year – for the last 10 years with surgery, the cost would have been €32 million. As we did not treat these 400 patients per year the cost to the HSE was €88 million. Therefore, the HSE lost the opportunity to make a €56 million saving by reducing the direct health cost on medications alone. 

About IrSPEN
The Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (IrSPEN) is a multi-disciplinary professional organisation dedicated to optimising screening for and management of those at risk of malnutrition or other nutritional problems in Ireland, whether in hospital or in the community. Founded in 2010 with the support of the Irish Society of Gastroenterology (ISG), the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) and the Irish Section of the Nutrition Society, IrSPEN members are clinicians, dietitians, nutritionists and other health professionals from clinical practice, research and education.

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