Column by Eilis P. Dolan Optometrist

The cost of obesity and associated diseases including diabetes

Claire McGovern

Reporter:

Claire McGovern

Diabetes

The cost of overweight and obesity which is the main cause of Diabetes Type 2 in Ireland is approximately €1.64/billion.

Last week, some of the facts about Diabetes and in particular Type 2 Diabetes were discussed. Since then, I researched some other facts including: The cost to our state of obesity and associated diseases including Diabetes (Type 2). At the end of my research I had more questions than answers.
It is clear that apart from the obvious health cost to the individual suffering from the dreaded disease, the economic cost to the exchequer is enormous.
How should policy makers tackle this problem? Who should we hold responsible? Should the service users of the health service pay towards the cost of managing their condition?
A study carried out in the University College Cork and Safe Food Ireland revealed that the cost of overweight and obesity which is the main cause of Diabetes Type 2 in Ireland is approximately €1.64/billion.
This is broken down to about €1.13 billion in the Republic of Ireland and €530 million in Northern Ireland. This accounts for approximately 2.8% of the total health expenditure.
The University College Cork and Safefood study broke these figures down to show that more than one third of the costs are directly related to healthcare, including hospital in-patient and out-patient care, GP visits and drugs. This study did not refer to the cost of other free services such as Diabetic Eye Screening, Podiatry and Dieticians.
It did however, mention the indirect costs to the state such as reduced or lost productivity and absenteeism related to obesity or being overweight totals €728 million. The main reason cited for absenteeism and productivity loss is lower back pain.
Martin Higgins, CEO of Safefood, says that the annual economic cost of weight related ill health in Ireland makes a compelling case for obesity prevention in this country.
“While it is acknowledged that these are conservative figures and don’t reflect the human and social costs, they show a compelling case for obesity prevention, based on changes in our food environment and physical activity levels.”
Altogether, 18 weight-related diseases were studied and the main drivers of direct healthcare costs are:
Cardiac arrest – 44 per cent
Type 2 diabetes – 9 per cent
Colorectal cancer – 12 per cent
Stroke – 6 per cent
Cancers of the breast – 2 per
cent
Kidney – 3 per cent
Oesophagus – 2 per cent
Gallbladder – 3 per cent
In my view much responsibility is unfairly placed on teachers at schools to educate children on healthy eating. Parents have an important role to play in healthy eating and so too do supermarkets.
Many supermarkets continue to market unhealthy products at an enormous cost both economically and socially to our society. The research carried out in University College Cork has implied that food markets have an important role to play in reducing the surge in obesity and its obvious health implications.
At one level our government is promoting healthy eating yet failing to regulate food companies and food stores in their marketing approach to snacks and chocolates.
In one of Ireland’s leading supermarkets, crisps, snack bars, fizzy drinks and chocolate Bars are strategically placed on and near meat counters for the consumer to see. So while personal responsibility is cited in the study as important I also believe that there is an obligation on food stores to place the unhealthy snacks away from the spotlight and especially away from healthy food items and checkouts.
I believe that collective responsibility will help reduce the percentage of diabetics from 9% .
For more information on Diabetic Eye Disease please phone Eilis P. Dolan Optometrist @ Advanced Eye Care Ballinamore on 087-6188763.