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The challenge of obesity being recognized as a disease

Getting obesity to be recognized and understood as a disease is the goal of patient associations of this pathology. This is what Victoria Buiza, president of the Hispalis National Bariatric Association, puts forward in this article

Victoria Buiza

About 22% of adults and more than 18% of children in Spain suffer from a chronic disease called obesity.

Obesity currently shows an annual growth of close to 0.5% in men and 0.25% in women, a figure that will worsen dramatically in the future.

In fact, by 2030, 80% of men and 55% of women over 16 years of age are expected to be overweight (overweight or obese). In total, 27 million Spaniards and more than 300 million worldwide.

Our first task has always been and will be to serve our associates and their families. That is why we started the course with the launch of our renewed website, in which we made available to the whole group the support of our scientific committee, which has been giving us a series of sessions monthly participations, which we recorded, for those people who could not participate live or who wanted to see them later.

In addition, since we have a national scope, we have attended to calls and requests for advice from all corners of Spain. Answering these calls and providing proven, evidence-based support and information is our primary and most important job.

In addition, in 2022 we have worked very hard and put a lot of effort into extending bridges and connecting with various entities both nationally and internationally: scientific societies, politicians, other associations representing patient groups, family members, pharmaceutical companies and media, etc.

We consider that this effort was necessary, since the biggest challenge we face is to get obesity recognized and understood as a disease and for that, we have to work with all the agents together.

Obesity, a disease

We need people with obesity to be treated as another group of chronic patients.

And it is that, although the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international entities recognize obesity as such, and it is included in the CIE10, the reality is that when patients arrive at health care in Spain, through our Public Health, we are not “recognized” as sick.

We are not diagnosed and are not listed as obese due to this lack of recognition. This is why our waiting lists are immense for interventions (for example, we do not have a Time Guarantee) and we are not funded for pharmacological treatments, etc.

Faced with this challenge of changing mentality and paradigm, we have worked to hold countless meetings throughout the year and have participated in all the meetings where we have been given a space to make our voice heard.

An example is the projects aimed at improve the humanization of the healthcare systempromoted by the administration and contributions to the creation of the latest WHO report on obesity.

Our participation in the day held at the Congress of Deputies has also been of great interest “Obesity, a political, health and social priority”. An event that managed to bring the conversation about obesity as a central topic for the first time in Congress and in which we were able to read the “Decal of the rights of people with obesity” which we prepare animated by the OPEN España group.

As I said previouslywe are particularly proud of the links we are building with the mediawhich are giving us more and more options to express ourselves and collect our voice either with written, radio or television interviews and with the medical class and scientific societies.

In collaboration with medical societies

In this sense, we are very proud and grateful to have been invited to participate in scientific conferences of essential societies in addressing this pathology such as SEEDO (Spanish Society for the Study of Obesity), SECO (Spanish Society of Obesity Surgery), among others and having been invited to participate in SEEN (Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition) initiatives through the Foundation.

I give an example of the case of the Baros project, in whose wonderful book the experiences and feelings of people living with obesity are collected through short stories and photographs and which I believe contributes to observing it through another prism. Fortunately, we were also able to include a prologue.

Among our collaborations with other patient representative organizations, it is worth noting that we are part of the ECPO (European Coalition for People living with Obesity) and are contributing with a scientific committee to a study on obesity in adolescence .

But what is the most interesting and what excites me personally most about all this?

That all this work in common was unthinkable a few years ago. Until recently, each of the actors in the health environment involved in obesity worked in our own backyard, without mixing or collaborating assiduously, and now it seems that the trend is changing: we are realizing that the only way to produce a real change, for us to be heard, is to work together and that the patient’s voice is very important, it brings a unique and legitimate value and must be counted on.

In 2023 we want to strengthen this desire, follow this path and start the year, as always, by offering our associates the best training we can through our resources such as the web and always thanks to our collaborators and extending a hand to everyone whoever wants to contribute positively, we will put all our effort into working to achieve this de facto recognition of Obesity, as a disease.

We are convinced that this is why we have to work with a perspective of social and political influence since we need to legislate and that is why we will continue to bet and work together and together with other associationsalso other pathologies, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc., to make us see and feel.

We cannot look the other way with Obesity. We are facing a pandemic that is gaining ground on others such as tobacco as a cause of death and, even so, it is still considered an aesthetic issue. We will focus on health and help these people.

Victoria Buiza, president of the Hispalis National Bariatric Association/Photo provided

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