Media Release - 4 November 2019 |Counties Manukau is one of the most socioeconomically deprived regions within the country, with persistent gaps in life expectancy between Maaori and Pacific people and others living in the area.
Related to these inequities our population experiences relatively high rates of ill-health risk factors, including obesity.
Counties Manukau Health has established a Health Weight Action Group across the DHB to consider what needs to be done to address obesity.
CM Health Director of Population and Health, Dr Gary Jackson, acknowledges the impact that obesity is having on the health of the local population following a report to the CM Health Board on the effects of obesity on radiology services in the district.
“We have 11 per cent of NZ’s population living in Counties Manukau with approximately 36,000 adults classed as morbidly obese (or dangerously overweight) – that’s more than any other district health board in the country.”
“One of the consequences of having a bigger population is that treatment takes longer because of the complexity and complications that can arise.”
During the 2018/19 financial year, the radiology service at CM Health performed 230,000 procedures with continuing demand for CT and MRI scans. Obesity impacted all aspects of the service and delays imaging and interpretation of images, which then delays diagnoses for everybody waiting.
Among the key issues highlighted by the report to the Board:
· Obesity causes difficulty accessing veins
· Obesity exposes staff required to transfer patients to the risk of injury
· Limitations on suitable equipment if patients exceed table weight limit or scanner
Furthermore, the report pointed out that high BMI contributes to other ill health as evidenced in:
· Increased patient weight leads to increase in likelihood of osteoarthritis and tendon and ligament injuries
· Obesity increases the risk of many types of cancer
· Obesity affects the respiratory system – leads to obstructed sleep apnoea
· Obesity, diabetes and hypertension is associated with increased risk to heart and kidneys
Dr Jackson says that while the poor nutrition and physical activity environment are contributing to higher BMI and therefore affecting the health of many in the community, the effects on patients who end up in hospital with obesity related complications is just one measure.
“We are involved in a number of work programmes specifically looking at obesity, through a cross-DHB Healthy Weight Action Group to consider further what actions can be taken by the DHB to address this issue,” he says.
The programme of work is currently focusing on five work streams including:
· what could be done in the community to address healthy weight management;
· BMI weight management and what incentives could be offered to people wanting to lose weight;
· Caring for patients with a high BMI in hospital settings;
· Health and nutritional literacy and how to avoid the stigma of high BMI, and;
· improving the collection and reporting of weight and BMI data.
“We are also developing a population health ‘deep dive’ as part of the Northern Region Long-Term Investment Plan process. This will consider regional responses to the high BMI issue.”
Dr Jackson says that while DHBs can try to affect change with the resources it currently has, more central government support is also welcome.
“We would love to see a stronger position on healthy food and drinks in schools for example, as well as on the advertising of fast food and drinks that target children. Better child targeted food and a sugar levy on manufacturers to encourage them to do more to counter the rise in obesity would certainly assist in addressing the issue,” says Dr Jackson.
“Addressing obesity is more than a hospital issue, it is a central government and community issue and will require a cultural shift in terms of our approach to food, exercise and healthy living in order to combat the obesity challenge.”