27 October 2016
The Royal Australasian College of
Surgeons has issued a dire warning to Australians and New
Zealanders about their countries' weight problem, as alarming
statistics highlight the prevalence of the problem in young
This warning comes as the Obesity Surgery Society of Australia
and New Zealand (OSSANZ) holds its Annual Conference in Sydney
starting today to discuss some of the more difficult areas of
Bariatric Surgery and as the Committee of Presidents of Medical
Colleges (CPMC) prepares to convene a National Health Summit on
Obesity in Melbourne on 9 November to discuss ways in which obesity
can be reduced.
According to projections, by 2025, more than one in four
Australian children aged between five and seventeen will be
considered overweight or obese. This is up from one in five at the
turn of the century, with a clear trajectory towards a one in three
The numbers are even worse in New Zealand, where the one in
three figure will almost be reached by 2025, when it is expected
approximately 32 per cent of children will be considered overweight
RACS Fellow and President of OSSANZ, Mr George Hopkins, said that
the increase in Australia and New Zealand had reached crisis
"We often refer to the obesity epidemic as a ticking time bomb
waiting to go off, but the reality is it already has. You don't
have to spend long in any public shopping centre to work out how
widespread it has become," Mr Hopkins said.
"This is having flow on effects for the rest of the health
system. There are strong links between obesity and a myriad of
other health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and
certain types of cancers."
"Furthermore, obese people have a 50 -100 per cent increased
risk of dying prematurely compared to people of normal weight."
Mr Hopkins works as a gastrointestinal surgeon in Brisbane,
where he has performed weight loss surgery on thousands of
patients. He says there had been a noticeable increase in the
number of obese patients requiring surgery, but most startling has
been the rise in the number of children.
"When I am required to operate on younger people it is usually
after every other weight loss strategy has failed. Compared to when
I first started working as a surgeon it is alarming how common it
has become for people to require this sort of intervention at such
a young age."
"With so many people now overweight this is not just placing an
enormous strain on individuals, but it is also creating an
untenable situation for our health system. There is only so much
pressure it can take before it collapses."
"Childhood obesity is preventable, but something needs to change
urgently. Weight loss surgery has proven to be an effective
measure, but it should not be viewed as a silver bullet or a
"We need to look right across the spectrum for how we are going
to tackle this crisis, from education, to nutrition, to promoting
more active lifestyles.Those figures
are damning, clearly what we are doing at the moment isn't
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