NJ Governor Chris Christie Sparks National Conversation on Obesity

Published in May 2013 Issue             

(Associated Press, Associated Press, Washington Post, Washington Times, USA Today, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, The New York Times, The Record, Philadelphia Inquirer, TIME Healthland)

The revelation that Governor Chris Christie had gastric band surgery dominated media coverage this week. ASMBS members including senior leadership commented in most major news stories.

Governor Christie said when he turned 50 in September he was “confronted” by his own “mortality” and for the sake of his wife and children he “needed to take a more significant step to try to get my weight under control so that I could have a really active next half of
my life.”

Jaime Ponce, MD, Robin Blackstone, MD and Philip Schauer, MD provided perspective on the decision and the method of surgery. Dr. Ponce said, “Christie's decision was the “right thing” to do, and that he is “at the age he really needs to address his problem, to live longer, in a better way, with a better quality of life.” Dr. Ponce also discussed the efficacy and safety of banding, gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy, noting gastric band “‘is a very effective surgery, but it does require a lot of maintenance and a lot of accountability from patients, who must diligently follow a diet and exercise regimen.”

Dr. Blackstone was live on National Public Radio (NPR) commenting on the governor’s surgery and discussed the quality care provided at ASMBS accredited programs when responding to a caller who questioned the psychological status of patients. In the interview she said, “In an accredited national program, you are absolutely going to have psychology and mental health as part of your comprehensive approach to this.”

Dr. Schauer commented to USA Today that Christie could be a role model for others who could benefit from the procedures, but still wrongly think of bariatric surgery as “radical and dangerous.” Dr. Schauer also noted, “I think it's wonderful for him that he has sought out effective treatment for his condition. The reality is that diet and exercise programs are not effective for someone of his size. Because he's such a national figure, he could send a good message to others out there who are also struggling.”



American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS)

Comments on What's Missing from the Conversation

GAINESVILLE, FL -- May 10, 2013 -- The revelation earlier this week that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had weight loss surgery made headlines throughout the world. Much was made of why he had it, which procedure he had, how quickly he would lose the weight and what it would mean for his political future. All valid areas of exploration and speculation.

One critical question, however, was left unasked and unanswered. What does it mean for the millions of Americans who suffer with the same disease of obesity, but do not have access to the same care Governor Christie received? More than 35 percent of adults in the United States are considered obese1 and it is estimated 24 million have severe obesity. What happens to them?

Many health insurance policies specifically exclude the treatment of obesity and severe obesity. When the Affordable Care Act goes into effect next year, it is believed that only five state health exchanges will cover weight loss programs and only 22 will cover weight loss surgery.

“Society as a whole has to change its thinking about obesity and begin to remove the policy, social, medical, discriminatory, economic and perceptual barriers that deny people appropriate treatment and support across the spectrum of obesity,” said Jaime Ponce, MD, president of the ASMBS. “Governor Christie made an important personal decision to take control over his obesity. Now it's time for our health care system to make that same option for treatment available to all people who suffer from the disease of obesity.”

Governor Christie said when he turned 50 in September he was “confronted” by his own “mortality” and for the sake of his wife and children he “needed to take a more significant step to try to get my weight under control so that I could have a really active next half of my life.”

Individuals with obesity have a 50 to 100 percent increased risk of premature death compared to healthy weight individuals.2 The disease of obesity has been linked to more than 30 other diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

“We cannot operate our way out of the obesity crisis. We must work together to prevent the obesity epidemic from continuing to grow. At the same time, we need to provide solutions to help those already affected with safe and proven treatments, and treat them with respect and dignity. America's future is depending on it,” said John Morton, MD, ASMBS Secretary-Treasurer, Access Chair and Associate Professor of Surgery at Stanford University.

About the ASMBS

The ASMBS is the largest organization for bariatric and metabolic surgeons and integrated health professionals in the world. It is a non-profit organization that works to advance the art and science of bariatric surgery and is committed to educating medical professionals and the lay public about bariatric surgery as an option for the treatment of morbid obesity, as well as the associated risks and benefits. It encourages its members to investigate and discover new advances in bariatric surgery, while maintaining a steady exchange of experiences and ideas that may lead to improved surgical outcomes for morbidly obese patients. For more information, visit www.asmbs.org.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/bb82.pdf

[2] http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calls/obesity/fact_consequences.html