Prioritising patients for bariatric surgery: building public preferences from a discrete choice experiment into public policy

Jennifer A Whitty, Julie Ratcliffe, Elizabeth Kendall, Paul Burton, Andrew Wilson, Peter Littlejohns, Paul Harris, Rachael Krinks, Paul A Scuffham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives To derive priority weights for access to bariatric surgery for obese adults, from the perspective of the public.

Setting Australian public hospital system.

Participants Adults (N=1994), reflecting the age and gender distribution of Queensland and South Australia.

Primary and secondary outcome measures A discrete choice experiment in which respondents indicated which of two individuals with different characteristics should be prioritised for surgery in repeated hypothetical choices. Potential surgery recipients were described by seven key characteristics or attributes: body mass index (BMI), presence of comorbid conditions, age, family history, commitment to lifestyle change, time on the surgical wait list and chance of maintaining weight loss following surgery. A multinomial logit model was used to evaluate preferences and derive priority weights (primary analysis), with a latent class model used to explore respondent characteristics that were associated with variation in preference across the sample (see online supplementary analysis).

Results A preference was observed to prioritise individuals who demonstrated a strong commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as individuals categorised with very severe (BMI≥50 kg/m2) or (to a lesser extent) severe (BMI≥40 kg/m2) obesity, those who already have obesity-related comorbidity, with a family history of obesity, with a greater chance of maintaining weight loss or who had spent a longer time on the wait list. Lifestyle commitment was considered to be more than twice as important as any other criterion. There was little tendency to prioritise according to the age of the recipient. Respondent preferences were dependent on their BMI, previous experience with weight management surgery, current health state and education level.

Conclusions This study extends our understanding of the publics’ preferences for priority setting to the context of bariatric surgery, and derives priority weights that could be used to assist bodies responsible for commissioning bariatric services.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere008919
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2015

Cite this