New Swiss centre hopes to tackle obesity ‘epidemic’

A Swiss hospital and psychiatric centre are joining forces to offer a range of treatments to combat the country's growing problem of obesity.

New Swiss centre hopes to tackle obesity 'epidemic'
Photo: AFP

The Neuchâtel Hospital (HNe) and the Neuchâtel Centre for Psychiatry (CNP) hope that their combined resources will allow the new centre to standardize procedures and guarantee high standards of treatment quality for Switzerland's increasing number of obese citizens.

11 percent of the Swiss population is obese, according to figures from the hospital. In a statement, Dr Marc Worreth, head of surgery at the centre, described it as an “epidemic” in Switzerland and other Western countries.

“The proportion of obese Swiss people has not stopped rising since the OMS recognized obesity as an illness in 1997,” Pierre-Emmanuel Buss, the hospital's communication officer, told The Local. He said that the increase was particularly alarming because of the rise in cases among adolescents and young adults, as well as those classified as “severely obese”. 

The new Medical and Surgical Centre of Obesity aims to take care of patients in a “multidisciplinary way”, Buss said, with doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, dieticians and surgeons working together and with the patient to determine the best course of treatment in order to ensure a healthy lifestyle change. 

“Surgery is not just a final resort,” explained Buss. “The preparatory phase is very important, allowing us to inform and prepare the patient.”

Before surgery can take place, patients will typically have around 20 appointments and be monitored for one to two years, to ensure they are ready. 

The centre has already treated over 100 patients from the French-speaking cantons, but after its official inauguration, planned for Tuesday, March 22nd, hospital chiefs are expecting at least a 50 percent increase. Currently ten specialists are working at the centre, which does not yet have fixed premises either, but more will be recruited in the coming months.  

Buss told The Local that changing public perceptions of obesity was not among the goals of the centre, but they did hope to change the perception of how the condition should be treated, which should “absolutely be in a multidisciplinary way”.




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What to do if you haven’t yet received your Swiss health insurance card

Switzerland is late in issuing health insurance cards for new policy holders or those who have switched their providers at the end of 2022. What should you do if you need medical help before your new card arrives?

What to do if you haven’t yet received your Swiss health insurance card

When you buy a health insurance policy in Switzerland from any of the dozens of approved providers, you will receive a credit card-sized card to be used as proof of insurance. Aside from your name, date of birth, and AHV / AVS number, the card also includes the name of your insurance company, client number, and the date of validity.

You will have to present this card each time you seek medical treatment that is included under the obligatory KVG / LaMal scheme.

Residents of Switzerland are allowed to change their compulsory health insurance coverage from one provider to another by November 30th, to go into effect from January of the following year.

The sharp increase in the cost of the health insurance in 2023 — 6.6 percent on average, but higher in some cantons — has prompted many people to look for cheaper options and change their carriers.

READ MORE: Millions of Swiss residents switch health insurance amid rising costs

This massive switch has caused a backlog in the production of new insurance cards, which means that many policy holders have not yet received theirs.

The cards for all insurance carriers are issued by a subsidiary of the Santésuisse health insurance association, whose spokesperson, Manuel Ackermann, said that the delay is caused by the “extraordinarily large number” — three times as many as in an average year — of switches.

He did not specify how much longer is needed to issue and send out all the cards.

What should you do if you haven’t yet received your card?

Say you need medical help, or another situation arises where proof of health insurance is needed — for instance, if you are applying for a new job or registering in a new municipality.

In such cases, you can present the insurance certificate letter your carrier has issued when you took up your policy.

While not having an insurance card is a minor inconvenience in Switzerland, where such a certificate can be used in the interim, it could be more of a problem when travelling in the European Union.

Under normal circumstances, if you fall ill in the EU, all you have do is present your Swiss card, which is equivalent to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This way, you can be treated and the bill will go directly to your Swiss insurance company.

However, absence of the card could mean that hospitals in those countries may not recognise the insurance certificate alone, and require Swiss residents to pay for medical care on the spot.

While not an ideal situation, you can submit the bill, along with all the required documents such as details of your treatment, to your insurer in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can my Swiss health insurance refuse to pay my medical bills?