29 Oct 2010

Government to fund more weight loss surgery

8:11 am on 29 October 2010

The Government has announced it will fund an extra 300 weight loss operations over the next four years.

Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia says the additional operations will cost $2 million a year.

The number of publicly funded weight-loss operations has more than trebled in the past few years to 262 per year.

More than 800,000 New Zealanders are estimated to be obese - with direct costs to the health sector of about $460 million annually.

State-funded access to the surgery is patchy and about 400 people pay to have it privately done each year.

Mrs Turia, who paid for the surgery for herself last year, says it can improve quality of life and reduce the costs and harm from preventable disease that being severely obese causes.

The extra funding will increase by more than a quarter, the number of State-funded operations done each year, she says.

Prevention key, says surgeon

A weight loss surgeon says the Government's decision to fund extra weight loss operations is good, but more needs to be done to prevent obesity.

Richard Babor, a bariatric surgeon at Counties Manukau District Health Board, says prevention is the key to dealing with obesity.

However, Dr Babor says the surgery is very effective in reducing weight and taking away the medical complications of obesity, such as diabetes and hypertension.