New Clinical Lead for Obesity

The new Clinical Lead for Obesity in Ireland, Professor Donal O’Shea has said there is a real commitment within the health service now to act at every stage in the cycle of obesity – from vital prevention right through to recognizing and then managing overweight and obesity.

The HSE announced the appointment of Professor O’Shea at the end of last month.

Welcoming Professor O’Shea to his new role, Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, National Director of Health and Wellbeing said, “The HSE is committed to large scale reform, to do all that we can, to stabilize and reduce levels of chronic disease in our population. We are building momentum with hospitals and community health services to make every contact count with our patients and service users. We are working to bring the prevention message to the coalface of the Irish health service and to our own staff. We are also working to use our partnerships across the State to support external agencies and organisations to play their part. Clinical engagement and leadership is key to our efforts. The appointment of Professor Donal O’Shea as Clinical Lead for Obesity to work with our Healthy Eating Active Living Programme will do just that. It will target effective clinical leadership to strengthen our capacity to prevent and intervene early to halt the progression of overweight and obesity across our population”.

Commenting on his appointment Professor O’Shea said, “I am delighted to be taking up this post as Clinical Lead for Obesity.

It is coming up to 1 year since the publication of the Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan by the Department of Health. That plan is a comprehensive roadmap that outlines the multi-sector and whole of government efforts that will be needed to help communities and individuals make sustainable lifestyle changes. It simply has to happen. There is no magic bullet for the challenge posed by obesity. Somehow we have to get this whole of government, whole of industry and whole of society approach to come alive – and take obesity on.”

Professor O’Shea is a Consultant Endocrinologist and Physician based in St. Vincent’s University Hospital and St. Columcille’s Hospital. Qualified from University College Dublin in 1989, he moved to Hammersmith Hospital in London and was awarded a Welcome Trust Training Fellowship to study how the brain controls appetite. Since 1999, he has been the lead clinician for a hospital based multi-disciplinary obesity service that includes bariatric surgery. In recent years he chaired the health impact assessment group on the potential benefits and harms of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and co-chairs the Royal College of Physicians Policy Group on Obesity. He is a regular commentator on the importance of preventing overweight and obesity, advocating for changes in how nutrient poor, energy dense food is promoted and marketed to children and young people as well as the need to re-engineer regular physical activity into everyday life.

As Clinical Lead for Obesity, Professor O’Shea will be seconded from his clinical post 2 days a week to work with the HSE Healthy Eating Active Living Policy Programme. A key focus of the role will be the development and integration of evidence based models of care that strengthen prevention, early intervention, treatment for overweight and obesity across primary care and acute services for both children and adults.

The Government’s Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan sets out a 10-step multi-sectoral action plan to address one of the biggest public health challenges in Ireland. The appointment of a Clinical Lead for Obesity is a key action for the HSE under the Policy.

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