Tuesday 17 October 2017

New Children's Hospital 'to offer obesity surgery to children for first time in Ireland'

Talks to begin on offering children obesity surgery at new hospital, expert tells Zeminar

Obesity specialist Prof Donal O’Shea. Photo: David Conachy
Obesity specialist Prof Donal O’Shea. Photo: David Conachy
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

Talks are due to begin which would see Irish children having vital weight loss surgery carried out at the new National Children's Hospital.

Prof Donal O' Shea – who was appointed by the HSE as its Clinical Lead for Obesity last month – has revealed that he will be meeting Eilish Hardiman, the CEO of the Children's Hospital Group after she contacted him about the issue.

The obesity expert was one of the speakers at Zeminar at the RDS today, an event which is focused on the empowerment, education and well being of 15 to 20-year-olds. He told a packed auditorium that 90pc of obese kids will go on to become obese adults.

"Some 4,000 people in Ireland will die as a result of the diseases that obesity causes this year," Prof O'Shea said.

He said that research has now shown that obesity at the extreme end affects the ability of the immune system to fight off diseases.

"Your ability to run your engine, if you like is diminished," he explained.

An artist's impression of the new National Children's Hospital. The hospital will be ready by 2021.
An artist's impression of the new National Children's Hospital. The hospital will be ready by 2021.

Speaking afterwards, Prof O'Shea told Independent.ie that the weight management clinic at St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown sees people from the age of 16 upwards.

"I know the extreme end of obesity is a massive problem in kids. Eilish Hardiman from the National Children's Hospital (NCH) has made contact with me since I took up my post, to have a chat about what we can do about obesity in kids in the context of the new hospital.

"So that is important. 

"At the moment, we are sending children abroad for their obesity surgery. We need to be able to do that in Ireland.

"The NCH needs to be equipped for obesity surgery in kids. At the moment, the number going abroad is very small, but we need better access to that, not less access.

"As soon as we have access, we will be doing it in more individuals," he said.

"The hospital wants to have a meeting with me to discuss it, which is positive. It clearly is something we need to be doing in kids – hopefully at a small level. You have to hope that all the preventative things that are happening will begin to kick in," he said.

Also speaking at Zeminar were the hugely popular Olympic rowing heroes Paul and Gary O'Donovan who gave some tips on how to succeed, in a question and answer session.

Paul said: "Pick a few things that you really enjoy doing and have a bit of fun with it, and set some goals. Really work as hard as you can, to the best of your ability, towards it.”

Meanwhile Gary also said: “You never regret trying something you wanted to do. Whatever you are doing, if you have fun, you are going to enjoy it a lot more. That is number one, whatever you decided to do, enjoy it."

It's full steam ahead for the duo over the coming months. "We are travelling to Boston on Sunday and we are racing there next week," said Gary. "We will be tearing into training for the winter," he said.

Three Dublin girls also delivered a powerful message to their peers at Zeminar.

Emma Meyler (16) and Leah McGrath (17) from Lucan, and Nicole Lyons (16) from Palmerstown have been blazing a trail with their social media campaign 'Kick Like a Girl'. 

Their efforts have done much to raise awareness of the importance of camoige and women in football.

Leah said: "It's so exciting to be here. It is just to get our point across to people and let them know what we are trying to do. Our message is that men and women are the same. They shouldn't be discriminated against because of gender. The sport is the exact same both ways."

Emma said they came together in school to develop the initiative: "It was for a school project in Transition Year, and something we shared as a common interest was Gaelic Football."

Meanwhile, Ian Fitzpatrick, the co-founder of Zeminar told Independent.ie that the event in the RDS has attracted huge interest. It has been dealing with education,  empowerment and well-being topics. 

"For the workshops, we decided to hire in two really cool tents – yurts – to make them really attractive. It is almost like a festive feel really.

"The approach we take is, it's like a window into a young person's life. So it is actually a very attractive event for parents as well," he said.

The event has seen numbers swell this year.

"Last year, we had around 14,500, this year we have around 17,000, but even on Monday, we had 500 people register," he said.

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