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Weight-loss surgery in Tanzania a fresh start



Obese patients will not have to seek treatment abroad, thanks to the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam which has successfully performed weight-loss operation.

The hospital said yesterday the four surgeries it performed between July 24 and 28, this year marks the start of more camps for such surgeries at the hospital in the coming months.

Previously, the lack of such services has forced many Tanzanians and people from neighbouring countries spend huge amount of money to travel abroad for treatment.

In Tanzania, Muhimbili National Hospital (Mloganzila branch) in November 2022 commenced the intragastric balloon placement service to patients as one of the ways to treat overweight and obesity.

It is a weight-loss procedure that involves placing a saline-filled silicone balloon in one’s stomach.

This, experts say, helps one to lose weight by limiting the amount of food consumed, making one to feel fuller faster.

In this regard, the Aga Khan hospital’s development supports the government’s goal of making Tanzania a medical tourism hub.

According a report published in the BMC Endocrine Disorders journal, 14 percent of heart failure, 23 percent of ischemic heart disease, 44 percent of diabetes, 70 percent of hypertension and up to 41 percent of cancer burden is attributable to excess body weight.

The report also indicates that Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) is witnessing a rapid transition from a predominantly underweight population to an overweight one.

Currently, about 35 percent of SSA inhabitants have excess body weight and the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates an up to 50 percent prevalence in the urban areas.

“Community studies from urban Tanzania have revealed escalating overweight and obesity rates from 24.1 to 34.5 percent and 19.2 to 23.4 percent respectively,” it reads in part.

According to the International Diabetic Federation (IDF), there were 897,000 reported cases of Diabetes in Tanzania, which is 3.6 percent of the adult population in 2019.

Additionally, according to a global nutrition report 15.2 percent of adults’ women and five percent of adult men are obese in Tanzania.

“The Aga Khan hospital’s endeavour would significantly play a bigger role in reducing people’s costs of seeking treatment of obesity abroad,” Dr Modekai Ngenze told The Citizen yesterday.

Dr Mandela Makalala, Internal Medicine Specialist at the hospital said: “Bariatric surgery has shown to be a revolutionary game changer in the field of medicine.”

“Recent studies have shown that bariatric surgery could actually be a long-awaited cure for those people with Type 2 diabetes, and for those who are suffering from obesity, with no diabetes, it could reduce the risks of getting diabetes.”

He said the achievements by the hospital were made possible through collaboration with Dr Syed Tanseer Asgher from Pakistan, a renowned Bariatric surgeon with more than fifteen years of experience in the field and who has done more than 3,000 successful bariatric procedures.

Dr Athar Ali, Head of Surgery, at the Aga Khan Hospital said weight loss surgery consists of various procedures, such as gastric bypass, that concern making changes to the digestive system to make an individual lose weight.

He said it was a specialised minimally invasive procedure, done through laparoscopic (keyhole surgery) techniques, which focuses on helping those individuals who struggle with severe obesity to achieve substantial weight loss while improving their quality of life and holistic health.

“Obesity increases the risk for various non-communicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease (from high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure), sleep apnea and asthma (from breathing problems), osteoarthritis, and cancer,” he said.

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