You often hear the saying, ‘don’t talk about religion or politics’, but it seems there’s an even greater taboo in our community – weight.
A recent multi-national study, ACTION IO, found that only about half of people ever discuss their weight with a health care professional.
This is a scary figure, particularly in western Sydney, where overweight and obesity affects more than two-thirds of the population.
Western Sydney has one of the highest rates of obesity and overweight in the country, at 64.7 per cent, with Mount Druitt and Whalan having the highest rate of childhood obesity in the country at 33 per cent.
Dr Ramy Bishay, staff specialist endocrinologist at Blacktown Hospital’s Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes, hosted an obesity symposium yesterday at Blacktown Hospital.
An initiative of the Western Sydney Collaborative Approach, the partnership aims to tackle the obesity issue in a unified way involving tertiary clinicians, general practitioners, dietitians, psychologists, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, nurses, and carers.
More than 120 health care professionals attended the symposium to learn about how they can better support people to overcome weight issues.
Having lost a whopping 45kg himself, Dr Bishay is using his personal experience to wage war on the local epidemic.
“As someone who overcame obesity, I wish I had had a caring and informed GP who could have helped me manage my obesity,” he said.
“Weight is a hard topic to talk about and even harder to talk to your GP. I know, I’ve been there. But as someone working in healthcare, I know how important it is to build trust with patients and to provide the support and encouragement for them to want to talk about their weight.
“Primary care physicians and allied health professionals in the community are at the forefront of the obesity problem and play an important role in helping to solve the problem.”
Dr Bishay said the reasons for the increased rate of obesity in western Sydney are complex.
“Easy access and affordability of calorie-dense food, aggressive marketing of fast food chains, transport issues, sugar-sweetened drinks and adoption of a sedentary lifestyle are all contributing factors,” he said.
“Weight gain can be a result of many varying factors, it’s not as simple as diet and exercise.
“Mental health plays a big role in influencing a person’s ability or inability to lose weight, so as doctors, we need to be supportive of patients.”
Dr Bishay said obesity also increases your chance of developing other health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and asthma.
“A person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases by more than six times for people who are overweight or obese, compared with that of someone of a healthy weight,” he said.
“Excess weight also doubles, even triples, your chance of developing cardiovascular disease and is now the fastest growing reason for chronic liver disease.
“The up-shot is there are are a range of interventions available to assist people in achieving their weight loss goals, and success is increased the earlier you start the conversation.
“So if you want to lose weight, but don’t know where to start, please speak to your GP or healthcare professional – we want to listen and we are here to help.
“Start the conversation today and join the fight against obesity in western Sydney.”
For more information about healthy eating and active living, check out the Make Healthy Normal website.