Bariatric surgery is currently the most effective treatment for severe obesity and obesity-related disease.1–3 Public funding for bariatric surgery in New Zealand has increased in the last decade. Dame Tariana…
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This study sought to analyse all print and online news articles published over the last 10 years related to Māori and bariatric surgery. This topic is of interest because Māori health, obesity and bariatric surgery are topics of contention within the media. Over all included articles, the major themes that emerged were those related to access and attitudes towards bariatric surgery. Despite Māori having disproportionately higher rates of obesity and obesity-related disease, there was limited reporting on equity of bariatric surgery for Māori.
Media constructs in Aotearoa, New Zealand naturalise the dominant Western culture. Conversely, mainstream news about Māori is rare and prioritises negative stereotypical constructs that are often centred on Māori as economic threats via resource control and political activism. These narratives influence continued discrimination against Māori in New Zealand. Media representations of bariatric surgery in New Zealand are not widely understood. We explored the portrayal of Māori and bariatric surgery in print and online news media articles in New Zealand using an inductive approach to thematic analysis.
An electronic search of two databases (Proquest Australia/ New Zealand Newsstream and Newztext) and two New Zealand news media websites (Stuff and the New Zealand Herald) was performed to retrieve news articles reporting stories, opinion pieces or editorials concerning Māori and bariatric surgery published between January 2007 to June 2017. Articles were scored using a five-point scale to assess the level of reporting as either very negative, negative, neutral, positive or very positive. Included articles were then subjected to inductive thematic analysis using the NVIVO 11 to identify and explore common themes surrounding Māori and bariatric surgery.
Of 246 articles related to bariatric surgery over the 10-year study period, 31 (13%) were representative of Māori. Articles were scored as ‘neutral’ to ‘positive’ with a mean reporting score of 3.7 (Kappa score of 0.72 [95% CI, 0.66–0.78, p<0.0001]). Five main themes were identified, these were: Attitudes towards bariatric surgery; complexity of obesity and weight loss; access to bariatric surgery; Māori advocacy and framing of Māori. Of the five themes, access to bariatric surgery and attitudes towards bariatric surgery were most prevalent. Māori advocacy was another common theme that arose largely due to the support of public funding of bariatric surgery championed by Dame Tariana Turia. Aside from this, narratives describing equity of bariatric surgery provision and equitable outcomes following bariatric surgery for Māori were sparse.
There was limited reporting on Māori health inequalities and equitable access to publicly funded bariatric surgery in New Zealand. We argue that this lack of coverage may work against addressing disparities in obesity prevalence and access to publicly funded bariatric surgery for Māori in New Zealand.