New treatment guidelines within the healthcare system were recently launched. Photo:I Yunmai

New guidelines for those living with obesity

A West Cork GP has said the old way of measuring if someone was overweight had limitations in terms of diagnosing and managing obesity.

New treatment guidelines within the healthcare system were recently launched to provide better care for more than 1 million people in Ireland who live with obesity.

The new Adult Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPGs) are an adaptation of guidelines which Obesity Canada developed and published in 2020 and are seen as the international benchmark for obesity treatment. Ireland is leading the way as the 1st health system in Europe to adapt these Canadian guidelines, and health systems across the globe are expected to follow suit.

Dr Brian O’Connell said: “Measuring weight and BMI is always useful in the healthcare system. Obesity used to be defined based upon a BMI of >30kg/m2. However, this definition has limitations in terms of diagnosing and managing obesity.

“The definition of obesity is now having a much broader one and considered to be ‘a chronic disease in which excessive or dysfunctional adipose tissue impairs health’. The focus has shifted from an exclusively weight-based diagnosis to a more holistic health-linked approach.”

He added: “Obesity is a complex, chronic disease that impairs health. The focus of management has shifted toward improving patient-centred health outcomes, rather than weight loss alone.

“Understanding the root causes of obesity, reducing weight bias and stigma, and promoting and supporting patient-centred evidence-informed treatments will improve the standards and quality of obesity care. I believe the guidelines will be well received and effective in Ireland if the proper resources are put in place to implement them. The enormity of this task should not be underestimated.”

The new guidelines were published by Association for the Study of Obesity on the Island of Ireland (ASOI), working together with the Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ICPO) and the HSE Obesity National Clinical Programme.

ASOI CPG Project Adaptation Coordinator and ASOI Chair Dr Cathy Breen said: “The adaptation of the Canadian CPGs has involved over 70 specialists from all over Ireland who have been working collaboratively. They have worked together to ensure the guidelines align well with the Irish Model of Care for Obesity and the way care is delivered in the Irish healthcare system.”

HSE Clinical Lead for Obesity and Consultant Endocrinologist Prof. Donal O’Shea said: "Public health measures that create healthier environments to prevent all chronic diseases including obesity are important, but we cannot rely on prevention alone. Treating the disease of obesity must also happen.”