Today the newspapers reported that suggestions are being put forward to offer more barbaric bariatric surgery to patients with type 2 diabetes, who have a BMI of 30 or over.
Until now it has primarily been on offer to those with a BMI of 35+ but with treatment for type 2 diabetes - or lifestyle diabetes as it is more 'cutely' known is costing the NHS 10% of its overall budget. That, no one can deny a pretty hefty amount. Type 2 diabetes, is pretty darn serious, it can lead to blindness and amputation in severe cases and I must admit the thought of it alone, puts the fear of God into me. The condition can be brought on in one of 3 ways, age, family history or weight. The only one that the NHS can realistically attempt to tackle is our waistlines. Now what is important to note is that you wont definitely develop type 2 diabetes if you're fat and if you're fat and active and make good choices then you can avoid the curse, I just thought I'd pop that in because it's unlikely anyone else will want you to know that and I know lots of fat and fit women because the outer shell doesn't reveal all the inner workings of a body.
However this is not how I imagine they will approach the tens of thousands of people whose stomachs they want to cut out in the bid to minimise type 2 diabetes. They wont tell them to get active or that they can be fat and fit, it is a do or die situation that is often presented. Offering surgery is obviously aiming to be a cost cutting measure, but when each bariatric surgery costs around £15,000 - is there really any money to be saved?
But it isn't really the financially side I have an issue with. It's the morality of it all. It is simply an absurd and naive notion to believe that bariatric surgery is the answer to obesity.
Weight loss surgeries are extremely dangerous depending on where you research death rates are listed as anything from 1% to 1 in 300 to 1 in 500, but the way the media discusses it, it's as simple as a piece of cake!
Surgery to tackle weight loss is without a doubt extreme and the procedures are too new for us to fully judge the long term complications or health costs. Just think back and we used to think smoking was healthy - we could be setting up the NHS for a bigger fall in years to come as surgery results decades later could prove to throw up more complications. We simply don't know and to offer it on such a scale is hideously irresponsible.
While eating disorders like anorexia are treated as mental health conditions there is a complete lack of understanding or recognition that there are eating disorders such as binge eating and comfort eating or gorging which can result in people being overweight and obese and while not all overweight people suffer from these conditions to not deal with the root causes for weight gain doesn't bode well for long term results. Recognising that there are people equally suffering from eating disorders at the other end of the scale from anorexia and raising awareness of that will in turn allow those that need it, help with mental health issues instead of being seen as greedy and lazy - the two common media assumptions.
But of course not all overweight people are mentally ill or indeed ill. Many lead active lives, possibly more active than the slender person your sat next to in the cinema or on the tube, because weight is not the simple deciding vote on health. Just as not all size 0's are busy starving or throwing up their last meal. We were always taught to never judge a book by its cover, but we judge each other on our outer shells everyday.
Rather than championing dangerous and butchering weight loss procedures - which by the way are offered privately without any mental health assessments or help - shouldn't we be asking for a long term solution to better our health not 'fixing' a 'problem' that wont go away unless tackled at the root cause?
It is clear that we have more fast food joints than allotments, more burger bars than veg stalls and greater ability to purchase more for our pound in a Macdonalds than a Whole Foods. When looking at what needs to be done to help us live healthier lives we need to make sure that better food and greater knowledge of healthy food is passed on to all socio economic groups. Fruit and vegetables shouldn't be an honour of the rich but if you only have x amount for your family food budget, your health is already compromised by what you can afford to feed your family. Rather than shelling out £15,000 per surgery shouldn't we be working on increasing getting us all moving and helping everyone to afford better food? It may sound idealistic but it is the only obvious answer. But most of all it is about giving people choice. Giving people the education and the ability to choose how they want to live their life and what they want to put in their bodies.
One of the key requirements to having bariatric surgery is the weight loss you have to do just prior to the operation - to show your commitment. If you can do it and you are committed, then stay committed that way - don't risk your life for something that if you truly want is within your grasp, because if a patient isn't committed they will soon find a way around the surgery as none of the key issues and lifestyle choices are tackled with a knife.
Bariatric surgery is a poorly thought out fix for a far more complex issue. This is not a long term answer just a knee jerk reaction.