Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bigger, But Not Better—Part II

A number of our workplace wellness clients are hospitals—organizations that have been forced to accommodate the needs of ever-larger patients (some of whom weigh hundreds of pounds) with “expanded” products and services.

Some of these specialty items include: Larger, sturdier hospital beds and stretchers, special imaging equipment, bigger blood pressure cuffs, recliners that can hold 350 pounds—or more, super-sized clamps, air-powered transfer devices, and longer needles. Even wall-mounted toilets are only designed to accommodate 350 pounds.

Surgery too is trickier. In a normal weight patient the abdominal wall may only be an inch or two thick, but in a morbidly obese patient, the abdominal wall may be 12 inches or more. And, respiratory depression, respiratory failure and breathing issues can be catastrophic in a morbidly obese patient.

Yes, hospitals want to and must treat all patients and family members with dignity and respect and provide the best patient care possible. In some cases this means obesity-friendly equipment. Because this is where we are.

But, these changes cost money, changes that are factored into budgets, and who ultimately picks up the tab? Consumers and taxpayers who fund insurance and Medicare. Medically, obesity is viewed as a disease, but it is a preventable disease.

And, that’s the point here. If it’s preventable, why don’t we prevent it?

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