Sven Schubert of Ireland, is a member of the EASO Patient Council. Read more about Sven.
Earlier this year, I was informed applications were open for the EASO Summer School Train the Trainers in the Prevention and Management of Obesity. As a patient representative without an academic background in the field, I had initial doubts that my application would be accepted.
However, the acceptance email arrived, and on the morning of July 2nd 2017 I departed at 5am for the drive to Dublin airport, for my flight to Geneva.
Along with other delegates from Ireland and the UK, I arrived at Les Pensières at Fondation Mérieux, just outside Veyrier-du-Lac at the shores of the beautiful Lac d’Annecy in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France.
When we arrived, we joined 30 colleagues, including health care professionals from various obesity related fields, including medical doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, public health nurses, exercise physiologists and patient representatives for the introductory presentations.
Each of us approached the podium microphone and introduced ourselves and our vision for “When I go home, I’m going to…” which were projects we hope to implement as part of our participation in the training.
It was encouraging to see such a diverse group of professions, cultures and ambitions working together; the following 2.5 days were promising to be exciting and productive!
After the first coffee break, during which we had an opportunity to take in the absolutely stunning location and exceptionally suitable facilities at Les Pensières Fondation Mérieux. The Foundation was set up in 2001 in honour of Marcel Mérieux, a pupil of Louis Pasteur; it hosts conferences on global health as its core mission.
My EASO Patient Council colleague Christina Fleetwood presented on the subject of stigma and obesity: the patient perspective. Christina, like myself, has experienced obesity and the stigmatisation that often comes with the condition, for all of her life. The impact of her story – telling was noticeable. There is a clear hunger for patient input and it is important that patient participation will become a core feature of future health care in general and obesity management and prevention in particular.
Over the next few days, we would hear presentations from a variety of key opinion leaders in the field of obesity, including the psychological component of obesity, details of concrete programmes in various EASO member countries, obesity and inequalities, childhood obesity, patient advocacy and public health policies, treatment and prevention methods, bariatric surgery after-care, therapeutic education, physical activity, and nutritional assessment.
Every couple of hours, the educational sessions would be interspersed with very welcome breaks during which coffee, teas, water, fruit and even cakes were available. Many of us used the opportunity to stretch our legs and to get to know one other. Each evening, dinner was served at Fondation Mérieux where the menu was haute cuisine and the food was tasty!
The location was a bit secluded so most nights were early ones and just as well, since breakfast was served from 7am on and sessions commenced shortly after 8am.
We concluded our sessions with a group photo and a big circle in the morning sunshine of Lac d’Annecy outlining what we have taken from the training and what we plan on doing next.
The afternoon of the final day was dedicated to visiting our sponsor’s “Hydration for Health – scientific conference” in Evian-Les-Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva. While most talks there were not specific to obesity, we all had sufficient training to deduce the importance of hydration for optimal body and brain function, and naturally for weight management too. We concluded our 2017 summer school with a champagne reception (water was also served) and a dinner in a climatised tent outside the conference center, the stunning Palais Lumière in Evian. The bus eventually brought us back to Lac d’Annecy and the next morning we travelled to our respective home countries.
I’m taking a lot of impressions and countless new accquaintances and even friendships, as well as ûnew and renewed knowledge about obesity prevention and management, as well as hydration back home with me, where I will work with my Irish and European colleagues on implementing what we learnt.
I would love to see a follow up session — online, or better even at Le Lac again, to meet everyone again and learn how they are doing in their efforts. I think the EASO TTT programmes are fantastic; they will benefit HCPs in Europe and of course the people with obesity who we are all doing this for.
As far as NCDs go, obesity is still largely ignored among the professional community, and EASO and its national organisations are doing important work in furthering the scientific understanding of obesity as well as creating a dignified environment in which people can learn to manage their weight and make informed food and life-style choices which will improve public health in general.
Thanks to EASO, Evian and everyone I met during those fantastic 4 days in July 2017.