little-guy2If campaigns to promote more healthful eating are ineffective, how else might society address the obesity epidemic?

MailOnline reports that deportation is an option.

Here’s what we know.

Albert Buitenhuis, with a body mass index (BMI) of 40, is clinically obese.

He weighed 25 stone 2 pounds when he arrived in New Zealand from South Africa 6 years ago. (I think that’s about 282 pounds for those of us living in the 21st century.) At that time, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) mentioned no problem with his weight.

Now, Mr. Buitenhuis has a knee injury that may require surgery costing $20,000 to repair. And INZ has instructed him to leave New Zealand because his health is no longer acceptable.

The bottom line?

A spokesman said: “INZ’s medical assessors have to consider to what extent there might be indications of future high-cost and high-need demand for health services.” According to INZ, an applicant’s BMI must be less than 35.

In addition to the knee injury, INZ claims that his weight increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and fatty liver.

It’s not like this man can’t get out of bed or needs the fire department to make a hole in his bedroom wall because he doesn’t fit through the door. In fact, Mr. Buitenhuis makes a positive contribution to New Zealand society as a chef working 40-hours per week. But New Zealand is the third fattest county in the world (behind Mexico and the USA), and steps must be taken.

The risks of obesity have moved from health risks (here and here) to politics (here and here), and now to deportation.

Most people agree that fat people are more likely to suffer from several serious diseases requiring treatment that burdens the healthcare system. But the real question raised by the INZ is whether obesity prevention — in this case through deportation — is a cost-effective way of controlling healthcare expenditures. This outcome is debatable.

Mr. Buitenhuis is appealing the decision.

7/28/13 13:38 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.