Junkfood Science: What’s wrong with this picture?

December 27, 2008

What’s wrong with this picture?

National Health Services administrators have decided to order a massive 40 percent increase in bariatric surgeries for fat people in Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Post reported today. Government efforts to prevent obesity have had little impact, said the paper, leading to increasing calls for bariatric surgery.

While it is widely reported that some 71 percent of men in Yorkshire were overweight or obese in 2007 and 62 percent of women, wrote health correspondent Mike Waites, in actuality, the “levels of morbid obesity are below the national average with only one percent of men assessed as 'grossly overweight' and less than one percent of women.”

As he reported, the number of bariatric surgeries in England has risen ten-fold since 2001, when only 300 operations were performed. He went on to report, however, that the government health services has never evaluated the effectiveness of the surgery, including how much weight patients usually lose. The NHS hopes to set up standards that will enable such evaluations “to be carried out for the first time.” What other elective surgery receives government funding, let alone is mandated, with no evidence that it is safe and effective, and improves health?

How many consumers in the UK know that the Royal College of Surgeons in England, in partnership with the Surgical Specialist Associations, has embarked on what it calls a “National Surgical Fellowship Scheme?” In Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust and other NHS Trusts, the NHS has funded specialist training fellowships in upper gastrointestinal and laparoscopic surgery for consultants to now learn bariatric surgery (lap Bypass, lap sleeve gastrectomy and bands). Commencement was this past August.

Mr. Waites completed the disconnect by noting that government efforts to prevent obesity, by addressing popularly-believed diet and exercise causes, have proven to have little impact. So, a massive government programme is being launched in 2009 to target diet and exercise.

Government health officials don’t seem to quite get the evidence-based medicine theory.

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