I thank the committee for the invitation to address it. I will return to some of the earlier comments. Deputy James Reilly and I were interested medics who set up the forerunner to the obesity task force. I have debated with Deputy Jan O'Sullivan on discrimination against people with obesity and I have had dealings with other members of the committee. This afternoon is about the treatment of morbid obesity but the totality of the HSE response and necessary prioritising and prevention as the future for dealing with obesity is paramount. In synopsising our submission I wish to highlight some of what is going on.
Some 25% of adults are obese and 25% of children are either overweight or obese. Following the task force in 2005, the HSE put together a working group to implement the health aspects of it. The five-year plan was set up to ensure we got proper figures on obesity, to ensure we set up a treatment arm for obesity, to prevent it and to get the message out there. The message is getting out more than ever in recent weeks, which is excellent. Crucially, we needed a cross-sectoral group and that group is now in place. It is working to implement the wider recommendations of the obesity task force.
Regarding the management of obesity and primary care, as the primary care teams get going local initiatives are working very well. However, many primary care teams are not in place.
St. Colmcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown is the only hospital providing a multidisciplinary approach to managing obesity, including surgical management. When the unit was established in 2005, the vision was that there should be four treatment units in each of the four HSE areas providing active management of obesity and complimenting work at primary care level. That St. Colmcille's Hospital remains the sole unit up and running means that we are way under capacity.
We have developed weight management treatment algorithms for overweight or obese children. The guidelines we are working on for adults emphasise the importance of people who are of normal weight or slightly overweight being aware of it and having a management plan for their weight. We are probably the first country to include normal weight people in the plan for managing weight. Lifelong weight awareness is needed. It should be developed from an early stage and reference was made to primary and secondary school. Education about obesity needs to begin in antenatal classes with parents-to-be. The message will be taken forward with more belief and passion than if the process starts later.
Other areas of activity include the national physical activity guidelines. These are well supported by literature and a GP exercise referral programme, which is being expanded. There is a great deal going on and prevention must be 80% of what we do now and for the future. Having a developed health care system without the capacity to treat obesity is not sustainable.