Patrick Gower: More obese Kiwis need access to publicly funded weight loss surgery

OPINION: New Zealand, we are obese. 

In 1977 just 10 percent of us were obese. By 2017 it was three times that many at 31 percent. New Zealand is the third most obese country in the world, behind only the USA and Mexico.

Last time we counted, in 2021, over 34 percent of us were considered obese - one in every three. That’s over 1.4 million adults. That’s bad.

Bariatric surgery is not the only way to lose weight but it has been proven to be one of the best ways. It gets the weight off and helps keep it off. 

The bonus: you also reduce a whole range of things like heart problems, liver disease, depression and Type 2 Diabetes. 

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To get this surgery, the key thing is you need to have a BMI of over 40, or over 35 if you have complications like diabetes. 

Here’s a BMI chart. The green bit shows the healthy range. I’m at 24, which is considered healthy, but I’ve got to work to stay there. 

Patrick Gower: More obese Kiwis need access to publicly funded weight loss surgery

So you have to be nearly off the chart to even be eligible for publicly-funded bariatric surgery.

There’s clearly a massive demand for it. About 2000 people in New Zealand have this surgery each year and up to 500 of those are public, the other 1500 have to pay for it themselves at a cost of roughly $22,000

Last year only 294 got the surgery in the public system due to COVID-19 - an all-time low. Despite all of the obese people out there.

There’s an argument, it's a good investment. In fact, studies say it pays for itself within four years because we’re not paying for the huge costs of things like diabetes and heart disease. 

And that’s why we have medical refugees on planes to Mexico right now.

Patrick Gower is the host of Paddy Gower Has Issues.

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