Education Central to Anti-Obesity Efforts
Q: What actions can be taken to avoid reaching the alarming obesity levels we are experiencing in Mexico?
A: The only thing we can do is to reinforce education. Unfortunately, our social lives revolve around eating rituals, we go out to eat with friends and we close business over dinner or drinks. If we do not teach our children the correct eating habits, it is easier for them to suffer from obesity the rest of their lives. People need to be aware of the risks obesity involves. Prevention is crucial. There are many health problems associated with obesity and people sometimes are not aware of them. A patient with obesity is more likely to present diabetes, high-blood pressure, cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks, chest angina, strokes, fatty liver, varicose veins and many more health complications that could develop. There are some forms of cancer related to obesity, particularly gynecological cancers.
Having insurance companies authorizing obesity surgery would be very helpful and in the long run this course of treatment would be more economical than treating diseases such as diabetes or high-blood pressure. Their argument is that obesity surgeries can easily be abused. When not performed by a correctly trained physician there can be many complications. Certain insurance companies cover obesity operations but it would be ideal if more enterprises included this kind of surgery.
Q: Which were Cancun’s specific market conditions that drove you to open the Anti-Obesity Center?
A: When we first arrived in Cancun, we noticed the city lacked medical infrastructure and no one offered our specific service. We are a multidisciplinary model clinic that provides psychological care, internal medicine physicians, surgeons and dieticians. I trained on obesity surgery and laparoscopic surgeries in the US but in addition to obesity procedures, we offer gastrointestinal surgery, colonoscopies and endoscopies to name a few. A high percentage of our patients are foreigners. If you search the words obesity and Cancun on the Internet our webpage is on the first page of results. A special department in our center is in charge of digital strategy, focusing on social media and our webpage. Working with brokers is also important, as they usually promote our services with many more possible patients. Another important source of patients comes from referrals from US colleagues. As of today, most patients coming from abroad are in need of obesity-related services. Often, our patients have already undergone an obesity surgery that did not go as planned, so we perform revision surgeries. We expect that eventually the rest of the procedures we offer will also be in demand. In Canada, we have seen that unless it is a medical emergency, people experience long waiting periods to have medical procedures done.
Q: Which are the characteristics you consider when deciding who is suited to a specific procedure?
A: You have to be very cautious for several reasons. First, the patients visit with a limited amount of time, usually periods of no longer than a week. Secondly, many have not been correctly assessed by doctors and may have preexisting conditions that could make their surgeries riskier. To avoid having risky situations we ask our patients to perform the necessary studies in their country of origin and to have them sent to us for evaluation.
If we perform a risky surgery we talk to our patients and explain to them the many possible outcomes and make suggestions regarding their preparation and the time they would need to spend in Mexico to have a successful recovery. When risky procedures are requested by US citizens we sometimes ask our US colleagues to give them pre and post-surgery attention. Throughout the years, we have consolidated important relationships. We combined efforts with doctors in the US for development of the Full Sense stent that is placed on the patient’s stomach. Unlike other devices used in bariatric surgery, this stent will prevent patients from feeling hungry by creating a sensation of pressure on the stomach. It is extremely safe to put it on the patient since it is done through an endoscopic procedure that does not take more than 20 minutes. We developed it on 2009 and now we are in the latest experimental phases and waiting for Mexican, European and FDA approval.