Putting the nation on a diet

Associate Professor of Health Services research at Sunderland, Dr Yitka Graham, has been discussing her research work this week on a new national radio station as the Government launches its plans for an anti-obesity strategy to try to limit the impact of a potential second wave of Covid-19.

Dr Graham was invited to be a guest on launch day of the new Times Radio station, talking to political news correspondent Carol Walker, as part of a discussion on obesity and bariatric surgery. This followed an interview with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson the same day, who announced he was planning to put the nation on a diet, including the wider use of bariatric surgery, as he draws up a new obesity strategy.

The Prime Minister, who is on a slimming regime himself, is expected to outline plans next month to help shrink the population’s waistline and increase fitness levels, after his own health scare with Covid 19 led to a “Damascene conversion” about how to combat obesity.

Listen to the Times Radio interview HERE.

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This is latest in a number of media interviews led by Dr Graham, to discuss her work at the University’s Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute (HMNCRI), which sits within the University of Sunderland’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

The centre focuses on research in areas including bariatric surgical care. Academics there, who are part of the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society (BOMSS) have recently supported a letter to the Prime Minister asking for urgent action by the NHS to rapidly introduce effective treatment for severe obesity.

Current data suggests people with obesity develop more severe Covid-19 symptoms, coupled with a higher death rate (58 per cent in patients with a BMI of 40). There are now calls for an increase in bariatric surgery to avoid unnecessary suffering, save lives, develop a healthier population and protect the NHS.

BOMSS National Research Lead, Dr Graham, is Head of the HMNCRI, an Associate Professor in Health Services Research, and is part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity Stigma. She has carried out extensive research into bariatric and metabolic surgery for adult obesity, holding a research post in one of the UK’s leading Bariatric Surgical Unit at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust for the last eight years.

She explained: “The decision to have weight-loss surgery is not an easy one to make, and usually follows when other methods of weight-loss have been attempted but have not achieved significant weight-loss. 

“Bariatric surgery is an intervention that requires life-long changes which impact all aspects of peoples’ lives. It is not a ‘quick fix’ and many people are judged for taking what is wrongly seen as an ‘easy way’ of weight loss, which is simply not true. It requires strength and life-long commitment.  In this current pandemic, bariatric surgery is a weight-loss option which has potential to save lives in more ways than one. It’s more important than ever to support people living with obesity.”

According to BOMSS, bariatric surgery produces beneficial improvements in type 2 diabetes within days of surgery, significant weight loss within 12 weeks and ongoing continued health improvements including remission of type 2 diabetes in 70% of patients, reduction in the number of heart attacks and strokes and increased life expectancy. 

Dr Yitka Graham
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