NUI Galway Study Finds Patients Seek Psychological Services to be Included in Obesity Treatment

Feb 04 2020 Posted: 14:22 GMT

A study led by NUI Galway has found that on average, patients with severe and complicated obesity who were attending a weight management programme were more enthusiastic about participating in a programme to help improve their diet and physical activity than they were about having surgery if the methods of treatment had equivalent results and costs.

The study of patients undergoing treatment and also using focus groups found that those with severe obesity issues wanted help and preferred lifestyle modification and drug therapies over bariatric surgery. The patients also felt they needed psychological services to be available to them as part of the treatment, indicating the need for multi-disciplinary interventions but that these were usually not readily available.  The study found there is a lack of a systematic interdisciplinary approach to treating severe obesity.

Most of all the study, which invited the views of 192 patients, mostly women, showed they wanted treatment even if it was bariatric surgery as opposed to getting no treatment at all.  One in five of the group were unable to work due to health issues.  

Despite obesity being a major issue in Ireland, only a tiny number receive surgery for severe obesity.  The study concluded that it is likely that patients with severe obesity receive sub-optimal treatments in Ireland.

The NUI Galway study was led by Dr Michelle Queally of the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics and involved the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast.  The study of patients with severe obesity is among the first to explore preferences for bariatric surgery relative to more traditional means of weight loss.

The study has provided vital information at a time when Ireland is dealing with some of the highest rates of obesity in Europe, with one in four adults now classed as obese and one in four children overweight.  In valuing interventions, the study found great store would be placed by patients in psychological supports and they were anxious to lose significant weight and avoid fatal heart attacks.

Individuals who are severely obese have on average much more complex health issues and encounter very different challenges in the healthcare system than the majority of moderately obese individuals (BMI ≥ 30–35). Structured lifestyle interventions are a cornerstone of the treatment of obesity and its complications in different patient subgroups, including those with prediabetes diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, meaningful, sustained reductions in weight over time can be difficult to achieve with lifestyle modification alone.

Dr Queally said: “Delivering effective treatment for people with severe obesity represents a challenge for our healthcare systems. The study presents novel insights into the preferences of a group of help-seeking patients who are severely obese. It demonstrates that among this group of patients, there is a preference for lifestyle modification to achieve weight loss. The findings from this study should go some way to helping policy makers understand what factors influence participation in weight loss programmes and recognise the physical and emotional needs of the people involved. Developing such services requires the input of the patients involved.”

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