Australian public hospitals cannot meet the rising demand for obesity care

April 24, 2018 by Danielle Roddick, University of Western Sydney
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Despite our national waistline being touted as a major public health concern – new research, led by Western Sydney University, has found that public hospitals are not adequately resourced to treat the one million adults who currently live with clinically severe obesity in Australia.

Dr. Evan Atlantis from the University's School of Nursing and Midwifery led the study for the Clinical Obesity Services in Public Hospitals (COSiPH) Working Group, which also involved expert representatives from 15 in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT.

The results of the study, published today in Clinical Obesity, indicate that:

  • Only a small fraction of Australians who are eligible to access specialist healthcare services for would have access to such services in Australian public hospitals.
  • The services for clinically obese patients vary substantially between hospitals.
  • The small number of specialist obesity services that are available, are under-resourced and only located in a few major cities.
  • Patient access to services and treatments is limited by strict entry criteria, prolonged wait times, geographical location, as well as out-of-pocket costs.

The Clinical Obesity paper calls for significant improvements in:

  • staff and physical infrastructure resources;
  • access to services, weight loss medications and surgery; and
  • research funding for improving services.

Dr. Atlantis says patients with severe obesity often have multiple health conditions, and consequently, complex health needs that cannot be met within the constraints of most primary care settings.

"The results of this study indicate that thousands of people, who may benefit from specialist health care, are currently not having their needs addressed by the public health system," says Dr. Atlantis.

"The experts that responded to this study reached a consensus on the need for significant improvements in obesity medicine – this includes education and training for staff; improved physical infrastructure and access to services; and more targeted research funding."

Chair of the COSiPH Working Group, Professor John Dixon from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, says the vast majority of Australians with clinically severe obesity cannot access the specialist evidence based treatments needed.

"Despite the one million adults with clinically severe obesity in Australia, very limited services are available and there is substantial variability in the structure, resourcing and capacity of current specialist obesity services in public hospitals," says Professor Dixon.

"The current national approach to assessing and managing clinically severe obesity would surely be unacceptable if it were applied to other complex chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease."

Organisational level data was sought for the study from specialist obesity services across Australia in 2017, and clinicians responded to two surveys to share their views on any gaps in resources in public hospitals.

Explore further: Weight-loss surgery improves lives and saves money

Related Stories

Weight-loss surgery improves lives and saves money

April 19, 2018
A new BJS (British Journal of Surgery) study indicates that weight-loss surgery is cost-effective over 10 years and can save healthcare systems money over a lifetime. Researchers used a decision-analytic model to come to ...

Care providers' understanding of obesity treatment is limited

March 23, 2018
Despite the high prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults, provision of recommended treatments for obesity remains low. Providers cite lack of time, lack of reimbursement, and lack of knowledge as major barriers to treating ...

Nurses' strike in Portugal cripples public health services

September 11, 2017
Nurses in Portugal began a five-day strike over status, pay and working hours on Monday, crippling services at public hospitals, union leaders said.

How stigma in the healthcare system is undermining efforts to reduce obesity

March 23, 2018
Obesity is a global public health concern due to its associations with an increased risk of poor mental and physical health. This is why attempts to prevent and treat obesity – especially in children – have become a focus ...

USPSTF urges multicomponent behavioral interventions for obesity

February 21, 2018
(HealthDay)—The U.S Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that clinicians provide adults with a body mass index of 30 kg/m² or higher to intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions. These findings form ...

Canada gets a failing grade on access to obesity treatments for adults

May 2, 2017
The Canadian Obesity Network (CON) recently conducted an investigation into Canadians' access to publicly and privately funded medical care for obesity. The results of the research have been published as a "Report Card on ...

Recommended for you

Some calories more harmful than others

May 15, 2018
While calories from any food have the potential to increase the risk of obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases, 22 nutrition researchers agree that sugar-sweetened beverages play a unique role in chronic health problems. ...

Fat cells seem to remember unhealthy diet

April 23, 2018
It only takes 24 hours for a so-called precursor fat cell to reprogram its epigenetic recipe for developing into a fat cell. This change occurs when the cell is put into contact with the fatty acid palmitate or the hormone ...

Bias keeps women with higher body weights away from the doctor: study

April 23, 2018
A study out of Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health linked past experiences with bias and discrimination and avoidance of doctors in women with higher body weights.

Wide waist with 'normal weight' bigger risk than obesity: study

April 20, 2018
People of "normal" weight who sport a wide waist are more at risk of heart problems than obese people, said researchers Friday, urging a rethink of healthy weight guidelines.

Lack of sleep leads to obesity in children and adolescents

April 16, 2018
Children who get less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age are at a higher risk of developing obesity.

Getting kids to a good weight by 13 may help avoid diabetes

April 4, 2018
There may be a critical window for overweight kids to get to a healthy level. Those who shed their extra pounds by age 13 had the same risk of developing diabetes in adulthood as others who had never weighed too much, a large ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.