Albert Buitenhuis works as a chef in New Zealand, though he is no Kiwi. On his Facebook page, you find Albert bemoaning the state of his home country, South Africa. He seems happier to be in New Zealand. But just two years ago, Albert was almost forced to leave. His application to renew his visa was refused.
Various media outlets reported the story. Albert was turned down because he was too heavy. He weighed 130 kilos, and was considered obese. The BBC quoted an immigration official: “It is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimise costs and demands on New Zealand’s health services”. New Zealand’s rate of obesity is 30%. The costs of obesity-related sickness are ballooning. Migrants are easy targets. Though perhaps not in the face of media scrutiny. Albert remains in New Zealand.
According to predictions by the World Health Organization, most Europeans will be overweight or obese by 2030. The widest girths will be found in Ireland, where up to 85% will be overweight, including 50% who might be obese. The resulting pressure on health services will put them into meltdown. As the CEO of the UK’s NHS put it recently, “Obesity is the new smoking gun, and it represents a slow-motion car crash in terms of avoidable illness and rising health care costs”.
It was pretty senseless for New Zealand officials to try to reduce this risk by weeding out fat migrants. The real crisis lies with the population as a whole.
We cannot just sit around putting on the kilos while government and industry fights over reducing sugar in the products we buy. As families, friends and neighbours, we will want to take action. If there is a challenge to which the Our Health idea needs to rise, this is it.