Magdalena Gajda, Poland


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Hello everyone, my name is Magdalena Gajda and I represent Poland in the European Council of the Sick for Obesity. If you didn’t know, Poland is a small country in the centre of Europe where Saint John Paul II, the Pope and current leader of the European Parliament, Donald Tusk, come from. Seriously, Poland is a small country, but the problem with obesity is as big as in other European countries.

In Poland, half of the Polish society is already suffering from obesity and obesity. About 46% of women and 64% of men. And our children, Polish children, are the ones suffering the most from all European countries.

According to the data we have from the centres performing surgical procedures for obesity treatment, in Poland, such procedures, i.e. surgical treatment, require 1.5 million people. However, we do not have data on people suffering from extreme obesity. I am one of the sickest.

I have been suffering from obesity since I was a very early child. I have been treating myself in many ways, various types of diets, massages, physical rehabilitation, herbs, medicines, but it did not bring any results and finally, in 2010, I gave up the surgical procedure for obesity treatment. I have a bypass surgery and thanks to it, I managed to lose 140 kg to 80 kg.

In 2013, experts from the Polish Society for Obesity Studies asked me to report on the scale of obesity in Poland to the Polish Parliament. They asked me to tell about the forms of discrimination against the sick in Poland. I started the story from myself and my very unpleasant experiences, about how I was persecuted, harassed, often even beaten, both by my peers as a teenager and as an adult by other adults.

I also talked about the problems that people suffering from obesity in Poland face every day. I mentioned the main ones. The first one is that, as I have heard from my colleagues in Poland, the disease of obesity is not considered a disease.

People suffering from obesity are not considered sick. We are just considered lazy people who only sit and eat. If they could, they would certainly lose weight and get rid of the disease.

This is a lack of concrete and reliable knowledge about the disease of obesity. This is the first barrier that makes it difficult for Poles suffering from obesity to have normal, ordinary, everyday functioning. The second barrier is the lack of knowledge among doctors about the methods of treating obesity.

There is no doctor in Poland who is an obesitologist. The Polish Society for Obesity Research is fighting for the introduction of such a specialist. As far as I have heard, colleagues from other countries are also working on the same project, in the Council of Sick Patients for Obesity.

The third serious problem is the lack of medical facilities in Poland, hospitals, health care facilities for people suffering from obesity. There is a lack of specialized equipment for diagnosing this basic, for example, weight or blood pressure, but also specialized, for example, computer tomographs. There are also no suitable beds for these patients.

The fourth problem, which is directly related to the lack of medical facilities, is the lack of public space, i.e. means of transport, means of communication, commercial spaces, public offices for the needs of people suffering from obesity, so that we can use them as well as others. The fifth problem, which we are very concerned about, is the lack of proper social support. We don’t want Poles suffering from obesity to receive special benefits, as is the case in Great Britain, but we want to receive basic information from social workers, social workers, about how we can be treated, where to go, for what help, for what information.

We need basic information on how we can be treated and where we can be treated, and this is clearly lacking. Polish institutions and offices are not adapted to provide any support to people suffering from obesity in Poland. Returning to my speech in the Polish Parliament in 2013, and I was really nervous, because it was my first public speech, but then, because it turned out that MPs and senators were very eager to hear about it all, an idea was created to create a function of a social spokesman for the rights of people suffering from obesity in Poland.

The Polish Society for Obesity Studies proposed that I would be the one to carry out this function, probably because I am a journalist myself, so they assumed that I would get along with my colleagues in the field faster, and they were probably right. A year later, in 2014, we created the Foundation of People Suffering from Obesity by Odwaga, and it is the first non-governmental organization in Poland that deals with the defense of human rights, civil rights and the rights of patients suffering from obesity. What have we been able to do during this year? We believe that we have done a lot, although not much compared to other European countries.

First of all, we have been able to help many people suffering from obesity, especially those suffering from extreme obesity, in treatment, in receiving treatment and continuing treatment. We have been able to gain a status as a non-governmental organization that is a voice, that is a representative of the community of people suffering from obesity in Poland. Whatever happens about obesity, all the media, all the public institutions, come to us with a request for information, for comments.

During the last year, we have been able to bring to light the fact that in Polish media there have been over 100 publications about obesity and the dramatic situation of people suffering from obesity in Poland. But our greatest achievement is that we have been able to slowly convince people suffering from obesity that they are the same people and the same sick as all other Poles and deserve the same respect and the same support as all other sick and disabled people in our country. Thank you very much for inviting the European Council of Obesity Patients.

We hope that this is not the last meeting, but we hope for more. Thank you very much.