More than a quarter (28%) of New Zealanders are considered obese, which is considerably lower than the United States (35.7%).
This is not the first time New Zealand has made headlines on this issue. In 2009, a 297-pound American woman was denied residency there because of her obesity-related complications, according to the New Zealand Herald. The medical assessor concluded that the woman, who was morbidly obese and diabetic, would cost the health service more than US$19,985 (NZ$$25,000) over four years.
"There's always been a restriction on immigration based on health issues, so the basic principle has always been, if you've got a major health problem that's a drain on the state, that counts against you in immigration," Jim Mann, professor of medicine and nutrition at University of Otago in New Zealand, told CNN. "I don't think that's unique in many countries."
Countries can test immigrants for infectious diseases like sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or tuberculosis, but the difference is that countries also want to determine beyond potential infections to the economic cost for the state, he said.
"If someone says to me, 'is your risk greater from a whole range of medical issues because of obesity?' Yes it is. I may not like the prejudicial label attached to it. It's a true fact," Mann added.