People suffering from obesity have to endure a lot of stigma and bias in the society. Lack of adequate understanding about obesity leads to many misconceptions about this disease. Although bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment option for patients suffering from morbid obesity, it is still considered a taboo in the Indian society. As obesity is a chronic progressive disease, its treatment is also not limited to just bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery is the beginning of a lifelong journey towards good health. After bariatric surgery patients need regular follow up nutritional guidance as well as for long term weight maintenance.
Support group meetings play a very important role for patients undergoing bariatric surgery. Research shows that patients who regularly attend support group meetings are able to maintain their health and weight much better in the long term. Our team has been organizing support group meetings very regularly and before the Covid 19 pandemic we used to have them every 3 months. These were in person where patients would gather at the venue. The participants in support group meetings include anxious patients who are waiting for surgery, patients who have recently undergone surgery, patients who have had surgery long time ago and sometimes friends and family members of the patients as well. Support group meetings are not only a place to celebrate the success of surgery, they also provide validation in terms of social and emotional support that is much needed after a life changing surgery like bariatric surgery. They are also a platform for continued education and motivation for patients. Patients suffering from obesity fight a lonely battle and are usually misunderstood in the society. They find likeminded people in these meetings and are able to share their concerns with others who have gone through similar trials and have faced the same stigma.
To summarize, support group meetings are the backbone of a successful bariatric surgery program. When the Covid 19 pandemic started and with subsequent lockdowns, we took our support group meetings online. The online system opened up newer possibilities and though we could not have our patients with us in person, it presented many advantages. Since the lockdowns have begun, we have been doing support group meetings more frequently than before. Now we organize them every month instead of once in three months. We have a much better patient attendance as they have the convenience of joining in the meeting at the click of a button from their own homes. The online support group meetings save travel time and are also more cost effective. In cities like Mumbai, distances are long and many patients are not able to attend regularly as they find the venue far away. Online meetings also help the out of station patients to join in. We also have the convenience to invite experts to educate our patients from all across the world in online meetings.
With the sudden lockdown everyone was confined to their homes. All avenues for exercise and activity came to a sudden halt. For patients who suffer from obesity or have had a bariatric surgery, this could translate into weight gain and subsequent increase in associated diseases and medications. Online support group meetings helped us to remain in touch with our patients, infact in an even better way than before. In a way, this was one of the positives that came out of the pandemic. It opened a whole new world of online communication and the distancing actually helped us to bring closer and take better care of our patients and provide them with guidance about their health.
About Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker is an accomplished and renowned Bariatric Surgeon and Laparoscopic Surgeon.
Read more about Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker- https://www.bestbariatricsurgeon.org/dr-aparna-govil-bhasker/
Dr. Aparna’s website is- https://www.bestbariatricsurgeon.org
You can read her lovely blogs on- http://www.aparnagovilbhasker.com
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker is a visiting consultant at the following hospitals: