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Weightloss surgery meet and greet- Hon Tariana Turia

Weightloss surgery meet and greet- Hon Tariana Turia

*Kingsgate Avenue, Palmerston North*

*Hon Tariana Turia, MP for Te Tai Hauauru*

*Saturday 20 November 2010; 11am*

* *

*[Check against delivery]*

This is an area of my life where my professional responsibilities and my own life experience are inextricably linked.

People in Parliament are fond of pointing out potential conflicts of interest with the associated warning, /Walk Away!/

But I can not -- and will not -- abdicate my responsibilities be they as a Minister of State or as a mother, grandmother and great grandmother -- to advocate for all possible options to be explored when our health and wellbeing is at stake.

And so I come to this conference with many different hats.

I come as an Associate Minister of Health, with delegated functions and responsibilities for diabetes management.

And whilst I have a great distaste for spouting statistics it is somewhat staggering to learn that in 2008/09 the number of morbidly obese New Zealanders aged between 15 -- 64 years, was 183,000.

Just to put some perspective on that -- that's a population the entire size of Wellington or Waitakere city. That doesn't even include the rapidly growing population of our children who are being categorised as morbidly obese.

That statistic is a huge challenge for our nation. Within the Ministry of Health, and as Associate Minister, I have encouraged the Ministry of Health to take the widest possible view towards promoting and achieving dramatic improvements in the outcome we seek for health and wellbeing.

So we have supported public health initiatives, education and skills training, behavioural therapies, improvements to our understandings around nutrition promotion; increasing participation in physical activity; support for medical and health practitioners.

But it's a bit like the constant merry-go-round of diets that are constantly peddled out to the public -- no one size fits all.

And so we have started taking a more proactive look at publicly funded bariatric procedures -- that is the range of procedures in place to treat obesity by modifying the stomach or the intestines, to reduce nutrient intake or absorption.

Now the moment I start to talk like that -- is generally the moment an audience switches off!

And so that is why I am so delighted that this conference has been called, to make sense of all the technical terms by actually demonstrating the impacts of weight loss surgery in person.

This is also a wonderful opportunity to share the great news that up to three hundred additional weight-loss operations will be funded over the next four years.

What that means in essence, is that approximately 75 New Zealanders a year, for the next four years, will be able to benefit from bariatric surgery.

The additional funding costs two million dollars per year -- and in effect increases the current number of operations done each year by more than a quarter.

It's not nearly as much as we might have hoped for -- but it is a great step in the right direction.

We know, as a Government, that this surgery can dramatically improve the quality of life, and reduce the costs and the harms that can be associated with significant weight gain.

But of course the surgical procedures won't do it on their own.

And this is where it all comes back to attitude.

Are we totally committed towards the new life that weightloss surgery affords us?

Are we compelled to share our good news with others; to provide encouragement and support that the difference can be made?

Are we taking the steps to ensure that the significant change we have taken on through surgical intervention, will be sustained?

How are we acting to ensure that our children and our grandchildren will appreciate the significance of a healthy lifestyle?

Ultimately it is in the interests of our mokopuna that I made the decision to undertake bariatric surgery towards the end of 2009.

It was the best and hardest decision of my life.

At the beginning of that year, I had been hospitalised yet again, by the havoc that diabetes complications wreaked in my life.

I had a particularly distressing kidney infection; was instantly admitted, and the consultant and dietician sat down and had a stern talk with me.

Hard as that was, it was nothing compared to seeing my seven year grand-daughter crumple onto my bed, sobbing like there was no tomorrow at the prospect of losing me.

It gave me a huge fright.

And so after talking with all our whanau, investigating all the options, in the early morning of the 24^th November 2009 I underwent gastric bypass surgery.

I'm not going to go into all the details -- other than to say that I was surprisingly painfree, and in fact amazed myself let alone the hospital team about how quickly I was up and about.

But I have no time to waste. I have an incredible little girl to keep me active; an amazing husband who constantly reminds me to take care of myself; a loving and devoted whanau who always watch out for me, and encourage me to try not to work so hard, to travel so much, to keep such long hours, and just to enjoy life.

And when you have all those reasons to live for, it is truly easy to say that the surgery was worth every single cent; every single twinge of pain; every single change in my life.

I love the new energy that has come with shedding the weight; and I feel a great sense of responsibility to continue to manage my lifestyle in a way which is healthy and sustainable.

Of course it hasn't been easy. And I have to say, again it comes back to attitude.

The other day my friends watched me pace to and fro past a gap between partitions, to assess whether I could wedge my body through the space. In actual fact they told me there was plenty of room either side -- but it was my perception that was causing the block.

In much the same way, I find it hard to move from my more generous wardrobe to the slimline version.

And there are always times when I think perhaps I could just eat that without it going down the wrong way.

So there are challenges ahead, but there are also endless possibilities and I have so much more room for optimism.

I am so thrilled to have been able to share my first year anniversary with such a responsive and compassionate group of people as yourselves.

I wish you all a wonderful day, I congratulate the Palmerston North Weight Loss Support Group for your great initiative, and let's all celebrate together the future we have shaped for ourselves and our families.


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