RTÉ’s fifth instalment of the television series “10 Things to Know About”, aimed at highlighting the best of Irish research, returns to screens this week on Monday 11th November for five episodes. Presented by Kathriona Devereux, Jonathan McCrea and Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, the series is aimed at communicating science to new audiences on a diverse variety of topics that impact the lives of Irish people.

Episode two of this series, to be broadcast on 18th November, will focus on the topic of Obesity, and will feature expert input from our very own Patient Advocate Ms Susie Birney, and Diabetes & Weight Management Specialist Dietitian (and ASOI Secretary) Dr Cathy Breen, alongside others including the National Obesity Clinical Lead Professor Donal O’Shea. This is a fantastic opportunity for local experts who have an understanding of the complexities of care in this field to spread their messages about the realities of living with obesity on a new platform.

Ms Birney was interviewed for the series, where she had a chance to share the impact surgery had on her health, and the importance of sharing her lived experience within and through networks such as the ASOI and the European Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ECPO) for which she is Secretary.

Speaking about taking part on the programme, Ms Birney said it was a nerve-wracking experience and one that differed from her usual advocacy role involving prepared speeches and seminars, and this involved coming out of her comfort zone for what she felt was an important opportunity to reach new audiences about living with obesity. She discussed feeling wary about putting herself out there on the programme as she knows that many people still believe obesity to be a personal responsibility, and discussions around the topic can bring about harmful and stigmatising conversations on social media. Although Susie is well used to this kind of reaction, she worries for the hurt it can cause family and friends.

“But…if nobody ever takes the chance and tries to share that there is more to a person’s life than just their body size and how society perceives they should be, then the stigma will get worse not better”

In addition, Dr Breen had the opportunity to share her perspective as a healthcare professional, on the challenges of societal perception of weight management and how it affects her role. She shared her experiences of what effective treatment looks like, emphasising the various roles of multi-disciplinary treatment, medication and/or surgery, in a bid to change the ‘eat less and move more’ narrative.

Well done to Susie and Cathy and we look forward to tuning in on Monday!