Registered nurse Christine Taylor has been appointed to Sport Whanganui to deliver a new programme designed to help overweight elective surgery candidates lose weight and improve their fitness.

The navigator role is part of the new partnership programme between the Whanganui District Health Board and Sport Whanganui led by DHB anaesthetist Marco Meijer who was concerned that overweight surgery patients have increased risk of complications including slower recovery from general anaesthetic, blood clots, wound infections and pain relief issue.

He said local GPs came on board very quickly and a project group helped set up a programme to not only better prepare people for surgery but also make lifestyle changes providing long-term benefits.

Hospital staff and GPs can refer patients to Christine Taylor, who is the newly appointed Sport Whanganui Fit for Surgery, Fit for Life  navigator, for assessment and the development of an individual care plans by the nurse who also has a background in fitness and community services.

Taylor says she works alongside the patients advocating for them; providing advice and motivation; and referring them to appropriate community support services which might be a dietitian, physiotherapist, the Fit for Surgery, Fit for Life activity coordinator or a psychologist.

“In collaboration with their GP, I treat the patients in a holistic manner (which includes considering their medical history and medications), to help them reach their required target weight,” said Taylor. She said this was achieved by improving diet and lifestyle, monitoring their pain and physical statistics, and improving their level of fitness to make them safe for surgery. Patients would also be followed up post-surgery for continued support if required, she said.

The programme is currently only open to elective hip and knee surgery candidates but Meijer said it planned to roll it out to other surgery options in the future.  In the first three weeks since the programme was launched in late October there had been ten patient referrals.  Meijer said ideally for some patients who join the programme it may lead to them not requiring the surgery.

WDHB said it was aware of one DHB offering a programme called Fit for Life that encouraged people to adopt healthy lifestyles and another DHB that offered a weight loss programme for patients pre-surgery but it believes it was the first DHB to offer the combined Fit for Surgery, Fit for Life approach.


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