EASO is delighted to interview Professor Luca Busetto, EASO Obesity Management Task Force (OMTF) co-chair, who has recently taken up this new post. I’m sure everyone will join us in congratulating Luca.
It’s great to meet with you Luca, and congratulations on taking on the role of President of the Italian Society of Obesity – Società Italiana dell‘Obesità.
You have taken on leadership of SIO Italia https://sio-obesita.org during a formidable period of transition. The COVID-19 pandemic, now into its second year, has been very difficult for Italy and across Europe. The Italian community of obesity specialist doctors and other HCPs, related health care professionals and patients have all faced daunting challenges.
Dear Sheree, it’s my pleasure to meet with you and to share with the EASO community my happiness in taking on the role of President of the Società Italiana dell‘Obesità (SIO). I started my journey in SIO when I was a very young researcher, I have served many times on both the the scientific and general boards, and I have now the privilege of leading the society. I can really say that SIO is my second home and the place where I grew up professionally speaking. Moreover, as with EASO, I have in SIO most of my friends. It will be great to work with them over the next two years.
I have had the opportunity to take on the leadership during this difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic. As President-Elect, I greatly appreciated the huge effort made by former president and friend Ferruccio Santini in maintaining the work of the society in a time when most of our members where shifted to COVID-19 care and were forced to reduce their activities in obesity care. In the meantime, the epidemic gave me the opportunity to appreciate once more the power and skills that we have within SIO. Several groups belonging to the Society produced outstanding clinical and basic research on the relationships between obesity and COVID-19, and many others reacted very swiftly in adapting their models of obesity care to the difficult situation imposed by the very strict lockdown that we had in Italy. Now, thanks to the vaccination campaign, the situation is getting better and we hope to share all these very interesting data in our next National Congress, which will be held on the coastline of Tuscany October 27-29 2021.
Italy has made major strides in recognizing obesity as a chronic disease. Just before the pandemic, the Camera dei Deputati of the Italian Parliament voted unanimously to approve a motion that recognises obesity as a chronic disease and requests that the government implement specific actions to promote and improve obesity prevention and management.
The parliamentary motion recognising obesity as a chronic disease was a very important step, but it is not enough. Now we need to convince our national and regional governments to implement practical changes for a more effective obesity prevention and management in Italy. This is by sure the most difficult part of the story, because we are now talking about the allocation of resources. SIO is a key part of a broader network involving other Italian scientific societies and dedicated policy makers in order to lobbying for this cause at the national and regional levels.
The Thanks Luca; readers can read more about this important process in your previous blog post here: https://easo.org/obesity-is-a-chronic-disease-italy/).
The Italian Society of Obesity was at the forefront of informing people with severe obesity of their extreme clinical vulnerability to the novel coronavirus, and people with obesity were identified early in the pandemic by the Ministry of Health as a recognised group of people for potentially experiencing severe outcomes from COVID-19. People living with obesity have also been prioritised for SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. Do you see these important linkages to actions within the national health system linked to the policy efforts you describe above?
Definitely. The recognition of obesity as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 and the inclusion of patients with severe obesity in the vulnerable groups deserving early vaccination are functional in moving forward the cause of obesity as a disease. The early vaccination campaign also witnessed some difficulties related to the lack of a full recognition of obesity as a chronic disease. Many patients had difficulties in obtaining an early vaccination because of a lack of formal, documented diagnosis. This situation evidenced once more the discrepancy between the management of obesity as compared to the management of other chronic disease, what in SIO we call “obesity clinical stigma”.
The mission of SIO is based on three pillars: study, prevention and care. Can you elaborate on these themes in the context of the work you see ahead for the Society?
Study, prevention and care are indeed the three pillars of our mission and they are quoted in the logo of our Society. We will continue to work on all them, emphasizing once more the concept of obesity as an adipose-tissue based chronic disease. I think that all the activities for the next years should move under this general umbrella, definitely shifting away from the old narrative of obesity as a condition mostly linked to poor personal choices. This will be the primary mission during my term as President of the society.
What are some of your aims as society president?
I think that the President of a scientific society or organization should act as a facilitator, sharing scientific knowledge and clinical experience both within the society itself and outside of the society. This will be my role and mission. I have already mentioned our National Congress this year. We are already working on a programme of virtual educational events and one national live event for 2022. I will have then the opportunity to organize our next SIO National Congress in Padova in 2023. I know that this is really a demanding schedule, but I had the opportunity, and have in both the national board and the scientific board of the society a very good team. We also have a very strong group of early career SIO members who are very active indeed.
Finally, my activities to support this important work will not conclude at the end of my Presidency. I will continue to work within the society of course, and maybe you remember that I was one of the promoters of ECO 2024 in Venice. Venice is the city where I was born and I still live. It will be great for SIO to host all EASO members and delegates and interested colleagues from other continents in Venice. The venue for the Congress is already booked for May 12-15 2024 in the elegant landmark Palazzo del Cinema in Lido di Venezia, just between the sea and the Venice lagoon. Palazzo del Cinema is where the very famous Venice International Film Festival was held every year. I will personally prepare the red carpet for you Sheree. Seriously, I am sure that with the help of EASO we will create a unique obesity event in a unique venue in a unique and beautiful historical city. It will be exciting for me and for SIO to have ECO in Italy, really.
You are known throughout EASO as a passionate and accomplished runner. How long have you been running? Can you tell us about your favourite pastimes?
My fame is undeserved! I am a quiet (and not very fast) weekend runner. I started to run some years ago, when I needed to cut back on my activities in the mountains for personal reasons. Anyway, I do enjoy running. It’s a way to maintain a reasonably active body, and also relaxes the mind. In the past I have had my best ideas mountaineering and trekking, now I brainstorm while running. My other passions are traveling (unfortunately so much during these recent years), trekking, climbing, and skiing. I like to spend time in the wilderness. At home, I am a lover of Baroque music and a very continuous reader. I can’t imagine my night table without a book.