Te Whatu Ora is preparing to open a special unit in South Auckland dedicated to tackling obesity.
By Local Democracy Reporter Stephen Forbes
The news follows a report released last week showing seven out of 10 adults in Counties Manukau are overweight or obese.
There are more people with a high body mass index (BMI) in South Auckland than any other health region in the country. It is home to 19% of all New Zealanders in the most extreme 40+ BMI group.
Te Whatu Ora (Counties Manukau) director of population health Dr Gary Jackson said the new specialist weight management service Te Mana Ki Tua will officially open in June.
It will be led by University of Auckland endocrinologist Dr Rinki Murphy.
Jackson said at first it will see patients who have been rejected for bariatric surgery, or young people who have type 2 diabetes and a BMI over 35.
Those who are accepted will undergo a complete diet replacement programme for 12 weeks.
Patients will then be able to have bariatric surgery, or some of the latest drugs to assist in their ongoing weightloss.
Jackson said the service will be based on a similar programme run in Newcastle in the United Kingdom.
"We have the evidence to say, 'This is how we can do it,'" he said.
"But we now want to work out how we can make this work in South Auckland."
About 120 people are expected to go through the programme in the first year.
But Jackson said for those who make the step it could be life changing. Jackson said at least half of those taking part will be Pasifika and a quarter will be Māori.
"In terms of people who would qualify for this service, there are over 100,000 adults in south Auckland with a BMI of 35 plus," he said.
According to the Ministry of Health, New Zealand has the third-highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, with one in three adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) classified as obese.
Jackson admitted the demand for the service will outstrip anything it can deliver.
"We're not going to be able to treat everyone, but this is an important start."
The World Health Organisation defines obesity as abnormal or excessive fat that presents a risk to a person's health. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight and higher than 30 is obese.
Jackson said obesity is a massive cost to the health system and is linked to everything from obstructive sleep apnoea and fatty liver disease to diabetes and coronary heart disease.
"People weren't obese in the 50s and 60s, but what has changed since then is our environment."
Jackson said people are bombarded daily with advertising from companies selling food with high levels of sugar, salt and fat.
"So it's no surprise we are where we are," Jackson said.
But he said instead of taking a victim-blaming approach, as a society we need to change our lifestyles and diets.
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