As featured in Doctor magazine – November/December 2016 issue.
Gold Coast husband and wife surgical duo, Dr Jacobus Jordaan and Dr Nova Jordaan have launched a new community engagement campaign to educate the public on the dangers of obesity.
The couple aims to pioneer a change in the perception of obesity, as the disease overtakes smoking as the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Australia.
Dr Jacobus “Jorrie” Jordaan, has just been appointed as Principal Researcher at the Gold Coast Private Hospital for the independent Bariatric Surgery Registry of Australia and says over five million people suffer from obesity in Australia and the statistics are dangerously rising.
“Obesity has been well established as a cause of diabetes, heart disease and infertility – and has now been linked to 13 types of cancer including colorectal and breast cancer. These illnesses are becoming all too common in our society,” he said.
“It’s no longer considered a cosmetic issue caused by overeating and a lack of self-control. The World Health Organisation recognises obesity as a chronic progressive disease that results from genetic and multi-environmental factors.”
“As with most chronic diseases, lifestyle choices can make their disease better or worse – but the reality is, research has shown time and time again that people suffering from obesity can’t just eat well and exercise to lose a large amount of weight. They need clinical intervention and medical treatment, but often feel too judged to ask for it.”
As a lead researcher for Gold Coast Private Hospital for the Bariatric Registry of Austrlia, Dr Jordaan oversees the accurate collection and submission of data to the registry, in addition to his role as a specialist surgeon.
The Bariatric Registry of Australia aims to ensure the immediate and long-term quality and safety of bariatric procedures in Australia. The registry independently collects data on patients undertaking weight loss surgery and tracks the results of each surgeon, procedure and device, looking at weight change, diabetes resolution, complications and re-operations.
In addition to research and quality control, Dr Jordaan’s latest community campaign called ‘Start the Conversation’ aims to educate the community on the impact of obesity while encouraging them to have the confidence to start a conversation with their general practitioner to seek treatment.
“Generally, if you have a BMI over 30, you have obesity. If the weight isn’t coming off with diet and exercise, then it’s time to start a conversation with your GP about what else you can do,” said Dr Jordaan.
“It’s not just about ‘looking good’ – it’s about taking your health into your own hands and taking informed and educated action. There are serious diseases associated with obesity – it has become the leading cause of preventable illness ad premature death in Australia.
“Our new community engagement campaign is about education those who suffer from obesity, giving them the facts, showing them treatment options, and inspiring them to have the confidence and courage to seek help. As a society, people suffering from obesity are judged. If a friend of family member reaches out to say they have a disease such as diabetes – they are instantly supported. Obesity is also a disease, but it’s one that comes with a lot of stigma which stops a suffered from ‘starting the conversation’.”
“GPs tell me how hard it can be for them to start the conversation with their patients about how their weight is affecting their health. Then me patients come in and tell me how hard it feels for them to start the conversation with their GP about how their weight is affecting their health. So we’re saying – just start the conversation. You could be surprised at how easy it will be.”
Dr Jordaan says that while the new publicity programs aim to encourage the community to speak out about obesity, it’s also about motivating them to take action and source treatment.
“They say we spend the first half of our lives spending our health to gain wealth, and the second half of our lives spending our wealth on regaining our health,” he said.
“The reality is, most people work too much, value convenience and price over quality, don’t sleep enough or don’t make the time to exercise or eat well. As a nation, there is a perception that we are too ‘busy’ to look after our health.
“But it’s time to take action and the good news is, there are plenty of medical interventions available for those suffering from obesity. Bariatric surgery is one of the most effective.
“I encourage people suffering from obesity to start talking and seek help before health issues spiral out of control. Everyone deserves to be happy and healthy.”