Obesity is a difficult subject to broach with even the closest of family and friends. Despite how widespread the issue has become, sensitivity and stigma remains.
The Tropical North is not immune to this global epidemic. Research revealed by the Northern Queensland Primary Health Network last year found almost two in three people in TNQ are overweight or obese. That’s 5% higher than Queensland overall.
If discussing this touchy topic is difficult, imagine tackling the problem with a procedure that most people know very little about.
That’s the job of Cairns gastroenterologist Dr Bernard Chin, who knows more than most the challenges of discussing and treating obesity.
As the founder of Cairns Gastroenterology back in 2007, Dr Chin has witnessed the ever-increasing obesity epidemic from the medical frontline.
"Australia is the fifth fattest nation in the English-speaking world and obesity is the second most important public health issue in the developed Western world," Dr Chin told Tropic.
"But it’s important to keep in mind obese people are not lazy and at fault. There are complex genetic, psychological and environmental factors which are the root causes of excessive weight gain."
Dr Chin and his team are excited about the launch of their new service to tackle obesity, called Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty (ESG).
ESG was developed in the Mayo Clinic in the United States in 2012. The procedure is non-surgical and performed by a specialist interventional endoscopist under general anaesthetic. Patients are discharged from hospital the next day and are generally back to normal activities in three days.
"Exercise and dieting alone has been woefully inadequate in tacking the obesity epidemic. Educating the public about a healthy lifestyle has not helped much at all," Dr Chin said.
"The world has been crying out for a non-invasive solution to tackle obesity. ESG is the beginning of the non-surgical revolution that is fighting back against the rising tide of obesity.
"Unfortunately, less than 1% of obese people eligible for weight loss surgery choose to have it due to fear, stigma, complications and costs of invasive surgery.”
Dr Chin reminds patients that ESG is just the beginning in long-term weight loss.
"Patients must accept responsibility for their own health and retrain themselves to eat less and be more active," he said.