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New Bariatric Institute Will Help Fight Obesity in Polk County

February 15, 2021 News

Lakeland Regional Health’s new Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Medicine is one more tool Polk County has to help reduce the rate of obesity.

Ranked the No. 2 health concern in the 2020 Community Health Assessment (CHA), nearly 39% of people in Polk County are considered obese, having a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30. Another 31% are overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 30. Only 28.4% are in the healthy weight range, having a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. The body mass index is calculated using weight and height.

Being overweight or obese can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and sleep apnea.

“Our new Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Medicine will bring much-needed services to this community,” said Danielle Drummond, president and CEO of Lakeland Regional Health. “We are pleased to be able to offer exceptional care close to home for those needing weight-loss management and surgical care, and Lakeland Regional Health is excited to collaborate with outstanding community providers you know and trust.”

Are you ready to discover a healthier you! Weight-loss surgery is shown to have a positive effect on serious medical…

Posted by Lakeland Regional Health on Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Current Statistics

The World Health Organization estimates more than 500 million adults are obese and 1 billion are overweight. According to the CHA, nearly half of Americans will be obese by 2030.

In the 2015 Community Health Assessment, 27.5% of adults had a healthy body weight and 36.9% were considered obese. The county chose to focus intensely on the topic to help the overall health of the community. In the 2020 CHA, the number of adults with a healthy body weight increased to 28.4% — a move in the right direction but still below the state rate of 34.5%.

Unfortunately, the number of obese Polk County adults also increased, to 38.8%, far above the state rate of 27.4%.

The combination of exercise, nutrition and weight has been prioritized as one of the top three health issues the county needs to tackle in the next five years; residents ranked obesity as the No. 2 most important health problem to address.

Obesity stems from a variety of issues, including genetics, poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

“Maintaining a healthy body weight impacts nearly every facet of life and the benefits go far beyond preventing a host of health problems as we age,” said Melanie Michael, associate professor and director of the graduate nursing program at Florida Southern College, which partners with Polk Vision on the obesity issue. “Having a healthy body weight improves self-esteem, energy, mobility and activity levels over time. It also makes our clothes fit better! The combined effect of these is an overall higher quality of life.”

Institute Programming & Services

The new institute, located in LRH’s Grasslands campus, will work with patients one-on-one and develop a plan to help them lose weight. Strategies include changing eating and exercise habits, prescribing medicine or considering bariatric surgery, which can be performed on patients with a BMI above 35.

Bariatric surgery is also known as weight-loss surgery.  That is then followed by lifestyle and behavioral changes like quitting smoking and reducing or eliminating drinking, among other things. It’s more than just weight loss, Dr. Joseph Chebli, medical director of the institute, said in an introductory video.

“What this is about is disease eradication, extension of life, improvement of quality of life,” Chebli said. Many patients have serious medical problems like high blood pressure and fatty liver disease. “Most of our patients are imprisoned by a very poor quality of life, lack of mobility, societal stigma, biases in the workplace. We say frequently that there is no single intervention in all of medicine that exacts a greater measure of improvement over a greater variety of problems than bariatric surgery. It literally eliminates disease and saves lives.”

LRH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Timothy Regan said bariatric surgery is safe and effective for those who have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight and are suffering from other serious health issues. “Research shows that most bariatric surgery patients maintain their weight loss for the long term, allowing them to add years to their lives and improve their quality of life.”

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