Rise in extreme obesity leads to opening of special hospital unit in Prague

Czech doctors say they are increasingly encountering patients weighing over 200 kilograms who are in serious need of bariatric surgeries.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 08.03.2023 15:23:00 (updated on 08.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Worryingly high rates of obesity in Czechia have led one major Prague hospital to plan the opening of a new intensive care unit for those who are morbidly overweight.

A last resort to lose weight

There are an estimated 150,000 extremely obese people – with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40 – in Czechia today, a rapid increase from 20 years ago. Fast-rising demand to get medical help for obesity has prompted the General University Hospital (VFN) in Prague to open a new section devoted to bariatric procedures, ČTK reports.

“Now, a patient weighing 200 kilograms or more comes to us every week, which entails major complications in acute and subsequent treatment.” - Martin Matoulek, physician at the VFN Obesity Department.

According to a doctor at VFN, patients with a BMI over 40 have “no long-term chance of losing weight without bariatric surgery.” The operation can help a patient lose up to 75 percent of their original body mass. The building of the new metabolic unit is set to begin in April.

According to practionaries at the VFN, "medical, nutritional, and psychological diagnoses are key to improving the patient's condition.” Underlying conditions such as diabetes and depression must be tackled to avoid extreme BMIs, and should be addressed post-operation.

According to an obesity specialist at Motol University Hospital, people usually can only lose up to five percent of their total body weight just via diet changes and exercise.


  • Today, about 1,500 bariatric procedures are performed annually in Czechia.
  • Over 16 percent of Czech children “struggle directly” with obesity.
  • Seven in 10 men in Czechia have an above-average BMI (25+), compared with 50 percent of women.
  • There is a strong correlation between education levels and obesity in Czech women, however, there is no such direct link for men.
  • About 35 percent of Czechs are forecast to be obese by 2035, if current trends continue.

    Sources: Eurostat, World Obesity Federation, Seznam Zprávy

A growing trend

In late 2021, a mass Eurostat study found that six in 10 Czechs were overweight and one in five was obese. This gave Czechia the (unwelcome) award of being the third-‘fattest’ country in Europe.

In contrast, in 2000 about 45 percent of the population was overweight and 14 percent was obese. In 2010, the proportion of overweight people crept up to 55 percent.

The rates of obesity across Europe, where Czechia stands poorly in comparison to other nations (Source: Eurostat)
The rates of obesity across Europe, where Czechia stands poorly in comparison to other nations (Source: Eurostat)

"Up to 10 percent of Czech healthcare costs are related to obesity and its complications. It [costs] approximately tens of billions of crowns per year." - Professor Štěpán Svačina, doctor at the VFN Obesity Department.

National action – or lack of?

Prime Minister Petr Fiala recognized the issue, and last year committed to a national plan that would make healthier foods more affordable by reducing their value-added tax while simultaneously upping the price of sugar-based products by at least 20 percent.

This program, however, was never adopted – the Ministry of Health instead decided to create educational campaigns aimed at increasing people’s awareness of obesity-induced health risks.

With obesity costing the country dearly in terms of people’s health and high health bills, the opening of the new unit at VFN is symptomatic of a serious – and worsening – national issue.

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