Key finding: 

2,506 patients were captured. 
995 received surgery 
1511 were declined (39.7 per cent acceptance rate). 
Across the South Island, all regions had a higher population percentage identify as NZ/Other European (82-92 per cent) compared to nationally (70 per cent). 
Of patients that received bariatric surgery:
o 71.2 per cent NZ/Other European 
o 21.5 per cent Māori
o 4.9 per cent Pacific peoples
o 0.7 per cent Asian 
This is in comparison to the New Zealand population demographic of which 8.3 per cent are Pacific and 15.7 per cent Asian. 

Dr Mark Stewart, a Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Fellow and Bariatric Surgeon at Nelson Hospital, said ethnicity is currently not a factor considered in prioritising bariatric surgery.   

“There is a disproportionate lack of access for ethnic minorities to receive bariatric surgery,” Dr Stewart said.

“Approximately one in three New Zealanders are obese, while 15 per cent of New Zealanders are morbidly obese. 

“When ethnicity is taken into consideration, Pacific peoples account for 46 per cent of all morbidly obese patients in New Zealand, followed by Maori (26 per cent), NZ/Other European (12 per cent) and Asian (5 per cent).

“The research suggests the ethnic groups who would most benefit from bariatric surgery are not having the procedure at rates consistent with their need.

“Bariatric surgery is a precious resource which is not well funded. Because ethnicity is currently not a factor considered in prioritising bariatric surgery, vulnerable groups are likely missing out.

“We must ensure Pacific peoples and Māori patients, who are more likely to be morbidly obese, can access bariatric surgery.

“More funding is essential. Bariatric surgery is expensive up front, but there are long term financial benefits. 

“People who undergo bariatric surgery have improved quality of life, and also save the taxpayer in the millions of dollars.”

Dr Stewart’s research was unveiled at the the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress in Adelaide (1-5 May).

The Congress is the largest multi-disciplinary surgical meeting held in the southern hemisphere and brings together some of the top surgical and medical minds from across Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, and the rest of the world.

For more information about the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress, please visit:


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