Children Undergoing Weight Loss Surgery As UK Debates How Best To Address Obesity Epidemic

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

With reports surfacing that 45 patients under the age of 18 have undergone weight loss surgery in the UK over the past six years, experts are debating how best to address the country’s growing obesity epidemic.

According to Emma Innes of the Daily Mail, 22 gastric bypass procedures, 18 gastric bands, two gastric bubble procedures and three stomach staple operations were performed on children between 2007 and 2012, statistics provided by the British parliament this week.

That includes one 14-year-old patient, the youngest person ever recorded to undergo weight loss surgery, UK health minister Jane Ellison told Innes. In addition, nearly 25,000 cases in which people had to be admitted to the hospital for obesity-related issues that ultimately required weight-loss surgery were reported between April 2009 and March 2012 – and the annual total increased each year over during that span.

“These figures are the public health equivalent of the canary in the coal mine. They are the most extreme end of an obesity epidemic that could undo the gains in life expectancy we have seen over the past century,” former health minister Paul Burstow told the Daily Mail. “The solution… can only be found in our homes, our schools and our workplaces. Teaching children about healthy eating and providing free school meals to all infant age children can help. It also needs the responsibility deal with the food industry to deliver.”

The statistics will add fuel to the fire of an ongoing debate in the UK regarding exactly how best to deal with the obesity issue. Earlier this week, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released new guidelines suggesting that doctors treating overweight patients should have a “respectful” and “non-blaming” attitude during their interactions with these men and women.

“It also suggests obese patients be referred to weight-loss programs, including those run by commercial companies, to help them lose weight,” BBC News reported on Thursday. “It states all healthcare professionals should ‘be aware of the effort needed to lose weight and avoid further weight gain and the stigma adults who are overweight or obese may feel or experience.’”

NICE recommended that all National Health Service (NHS) care providers should “ensure the tone and content of all communications or dialogue is respectful and non-blaming” and that the individual preferences of the patients should be respected in the terminology used to describe their conditions, the British news agency added. Furthermore, doctors should make sure that their facilities “meet the needs of most adults who are overweight or obese.”

However, some medical professionals, including journalist and mental health specialist Dr. Max Pemberton, have some issues with NICE’s new draft guidelines, according to The Telegraph. In particular, he takes umbrage with the organization’s suggestion that doctors avoid using the term “obese” – which they claim could upset patients – and instead advise them that they should “seek a healthier weight.”

“I’m not going to stop diagnosing cancer just because people don’t like hearing the world,” Dr. Pemberton wrote, according to the UK newspaper. “So why should it be different when informing people that they are obese? For too long, my fellow doctors have pussyfooted around their obese patients, too scared to confront the, er, elephant in the room.”

The doctor shared a story of one patient who demanded that he be given weight-loss pills instead of being placed on a diet to shed some pounds, and said that situations like that take place frequently. He said the patients who have no interest in altering their lifestyles “demand to have their cake, eat it…and then pop a pill so that the calories never touch their waistline. And, as a result, Britain now combines austerity with obesity.”

According to Dr. Pemberton, one-third of all children in the UK are considered overweight, and an estimated 300 people are hospitalized every day as a direct result of their obesity. Similarly, the BBC reports that slightly over 25 percent of all adults in England are considered obese, and another 41-percent of men and 33-percent of women are deemed overweight. Obesity-related ailments cost the NHS a reported $8 billion (£5 billion) reach year.

“It would be easy to blame Britain’s lifestyle changes, but the worst of it is attitude,” the doctor said, according to The Telegraph. “People just aren’t bothering to lose weight any more. Perhaps obesity is viewed as more normal. The truth can be the hardest drug to administer. But holding our tongues, prescribing the fat pills and bankrupting the NHS in the process, is the worst solution of all.”

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