Business & invest,
Ground-breaking approach to bariatric treatments
Nick Nichols | January 12, 2022
Weight Loss Solutions Australia (WLSA) has led the way for more than two decades in Australia as a ground-breaking pioneer of bariatric treatments to tackle the global trend of rising morbid obesity.
Founded on the Gold Coast in 2000 by Felicity Cohen, the country’s leading privately owned bariatric specialist group has built an international brand with a reputation for quality patient care and outcomes, supported by a dedicated team of bariatric medical professionals, psychiatrists and dietitians.
Maintaining its position at the cutting edge of new technology and techniques, WLSA also has a dedicated research team that partners with international medical device companies and leading universities to undertake targeted research programs to expand clinical knowledge to drive improved outcomes for patients.
WLSA’s success is further enhanced by creating an active program encouraging personal success through the support of a global community of past and present patients.
The award-winning company is now looking to expand its operations into the United Arab Emirates by forming selected local partnerships to meet a growing need for the group’s services in the region.
“We are delivering solutions that are truly improving patient health, reducing medical co-morbidities and improving longevity,” says Ms Cohen.
“Our reputation for success has led patients from as far as Bahrain travel to our clinics on the Gold Coast and Brisbane for treatment.”
WLSA was founded with a primary focus on delivering superior health and wellbeing outcomes for patients over the long-term.
“We are quite unique with the support we offer and the philosophy we have to achieve results,” says Ms Cohen.
“We’re all about connecting with our patients for long-term support, with the first 12 months being extremely critical. What we do is second-to-none in terms of support, patient management and driving the best outcomes. The data shows we produce 30 per cent greater excess weight loss for patients in the first 12 months compared with other models, and that sets us apart.”
A powerful team of multidisciplinary professionals
WLSA employs one of the largest multidisciplinary teams in the world in a private practice setting, with a full-time bariatric physician, four nurses, three psychologists and four dietitians, as well as a dedicated research team.
“It’s a really powerful, cohesive and specialised team and we’re passionate about what we do; that’s the key to success for our patients,” says Ms Cohen.
“Surgery is not a standalone solution because without the input of a really skilled multidisciplinary team, patients won’t get sustainable long-term result. Our patients not only achieve greater excess weight loss in the first 12 months, but they sustain those outcomes for five years and beyond.”
Ms Cohen’s passion for improving the health and wellbeing of her patients was born from a poignant personal journey.
“One in four of us is connected to someone who is morbidly obese, whether it’s a work colleague or a family member,” she says.
“My mother had a horse-riding accident when she was very young which immobilised her, leading to morbid obesity which later translated to the serious medical issues of vascular dementia and type-two diabetes. It was a heartbreaking outcome that affected my family for most of our life and I wished I could have done more for my mother.
“Yet, I had a grandmother who was a pacer for the Olympic swimming team and who remained active throughout her life. She lived to 95 in her own home, and her story embodies the vision I have for all our patients. People shouldn’t end up in a nursing home or with Alzheimer’s because of their weight.”
Through an ongoing research program and collaborations with some of the leading clinicians in the world, WLSA’s services are at the cutting edge of bariatric techniques globally.
“There are many known cancers associated with being morbidly obese, so our priority is to reduce medical comorbidities,” says Ms Cohen.
“We also focus on quality of life through the psycho-social impact of obesity because these outcomes are super important for patients and really profound.
“When I first started WLSA in 2000, the solutions we offered were considered groundbreaking, yet for many morbidly obese patients, surgery at the time was still considered a taboo, a last resort.
“However, the advances achieved over the past two decades have been remarkable, creating many more exciting options for specialised, non-invasive treatments that align with the needs of individual patients.”
The most innovative procedure WLSA patients can access is the Elipse Balloon, a non-surgical, non-interventional intra-gastric balloon device. Deployed in the WLSA clinic by a surgeon, the device is swallowed by the patient, with a radiographer on hand to ensure its optimal positioning. The procedure is completed when the surgeon fills the balloon with saline, after which the patient is ready to go home. The balloon remains in the stomach for 16 weeks before the dissolvable suture breaks down and passes naturally.
“This procedure is performed in conjunction with the support from our multi-disciplinary team over 12 months to ensure the patient achieves the desired weight loss through our lifestyle modification program,” says Ms Cohen.
Orbera Intra-Gastric Balloon
Performed via endoscope and under low-dose anaesthetic, this day-surgical procedure is undertaken in a hospital setting. Although similar to the Elipse Balloon, the saline-filled Orbera Intra-Gastric Balloon is designed to remain in place for about six months. This procedure provides an alternative for patients who would otherwise require weight-loss surgery and who are motivated to comply with the WLSA Healthy Outcomes Process Program.
Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty (ESG)
ESG is the latest in non-surgical solutions that are designed to behave in a similar fashion to the gastric sleeve. This involves the placement of surgical stitches inside the stomach to reduce its size. ESG has been created to suit a certain body mass index and, before proceeding, the WLSA team carefully assesses each patient’s criteria to ensure the procedure offers optimum results.
“We are very diagnostically focused, as these procedures are lifechanging for your health and for your future,” says Ms Cohen.
Gastric Sleeve (Laproscopic Vertical Gastroplaste)
The Gastric Sleeve is one of the most common weight loss procedures that involves the permanent removal of a significant portion of the stomach to make patients feel fuller from smaller meals.
“This is a gold standard procedure because there are no nutritional deficiencies and patients really live well,” says Ms Cohen. “The quality-of-life outcomes are phenomenal and patient weight loss meets all expectations. With good support and education these patients all do brilliantly.”
There are many types of bypass procedures available, and for some patients this is the appropriate option.
“However, all these procedures act on satiety, to make patients feel fuller on less volume of liquid and food,” says Ms Cohen.
The individual solutions recommended for patients are informed by the WLSA team’s detailed assessment of their personal health status and the degree of medical co-morbidity.
“We take into account whether a patient has type-two diabetes or gestational diabetes, sleep apnoea, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, including familial history and other potential risk factors associated with being overweight or morbidly obese.”
Also making its mark in preventative health, WLSA is undertaking extensive studies to create programs to combat childhood and adolescent obesity.
The findings of WLSA’s latest program, Project GRIT, have been published in BMC and have been presented at major conferences globally. The 12-week study yielded promising results that demonstrated multidisciplinary lifestyle intervention for children and adolescents resulted in improved health and self-esteem.
“We found early intervention to be an effective option to help children make better discretionary food choices,” says Ms Cohen. “Unless we tackle childhood obesity, we are going to have continuing issues with adult obesity for many years to come.”
Expanding to UAE
WLSA continues to expand its global research base to further develop the level of care and efficacy of bariatric solutions for patients globally.
The group sees the Dubai and the United Arab Emirates as a market primed to grow its business base internationally for the first time.
“We want to make a difference for not only the overweight but the seriously obese,” says Ms Cohen.
“The Emirates have one of the highest male infertility problems in the world and type two diabetes is also chronic. This will be the first opportunity to grow our brand and give our company a presence internationally. We hope to achieve at least one joint-venture opportunity to work with patients in the Emirates to find solutions that are going to work for them.
“We already have surgeons in the UAE market and, with the backing of our experienced team in Australia, we have the systems and solutions to really make the same ground-breaking changes there that we have in Australia.”
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