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Public hospitals not equipped to meet rising demand for obesity care

Australia’s public hospitals are not adequately resourced to treat the one million adults who currently live with clinically severe obesity.

The research behind the finding, led by Western Sydney University, held that the small number of specialist obesity services that are available are under-resourced and only located in a few major cities.

As a result, only a small fraction of Australians who are eligible to access specialist healthcare services for obesity would be able to do so.

Western Sydney University’s Dr Evan Atlantis, who led the study for the Clinical Obesity Services in Public Hospitals (COSiPH) Working Group, said 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,” said Atlantis.

Chair of the COSiPH Working Group Professor John Dixon, from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, added that the very limited services that are available in public hospitals vary substantially in structure, resourcing and capacity.

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

The Clinical Obesity paper called for significant improvements in staff and physical infrastructure resources, access to services, weight loss medications and surgery and research funding for improving services.

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