I was recently fortunate enough to be a guest blogger on Sociological Images. I blogged about the Fit/ Fat debate. One of the commenters is a health care provider who mentioned the issues that fat people create for health care workers. He/she was very respectful and kept the discussion to the facts. Specifically mentioning that we are more difficult to turn/lift/carry, people who have more skin folds are harder to keep clean, it can be difficult to adequately feed us in a tube feeding situation because our bodies can require more calories and be Insulin resistant.
I’m not disputing these issues, but I am asking some questions:
1. If the numbers are true and 30% of the population is actually obese, that means that the health care system is unable to provide adequate care to a full third of the population. How is that ok? Why are people not working on solutions? It’s not like this is a new issue – how did the people responsible for our health care not see this coming and get ahead of the issue?
2. How do they provide healthcare for NFL Linebackers? Those guys get hurt all the time and they are huge. Who takes care of Shaquille O’Neal – that dude is 7’1 and 325 pounds and he was injured a lot.
3. Fat bodies aren’t the only ones that cause issues for health care providers. Elderly bodies, those frail from disease or malnutrition, people with certain disabilities, people with alzheimers/dementia, young children, people who lack sufficient muscle mass, people with severe osteoporosis etc. all pose difficulties for health care providers. I work with people who are dealing with under-eating disorders and their bodies create tons of difficulties for their health care providers – they are frail, their stats are all over the place, their bodies won’t tolerate food, etc.
The difference between these other situations and obese people seems to me to be that obese people are told that we should “do something about it” or, more correctly, that we should have “done something about it” before we got sick and so we “deserve” our sub-par health care, or at any rate we don’t deserve to have people working on solutions that would allow us to get the best possible care and allow health care workers to provide care for us without putting themselves at risk.
However, the idea that the solution is just for all of us to become thin is problematic at best. Scientifically no study of intentional weight loss has ever shown a long term success rate above 5% so there is some question as to whether long-term weight loss is possible for the majority of people. Even if it is, that doesn’t help people care for the person who comes in right now with a health problem and a large body.
What I am suggesting is that the problem is neither large people nor health care providers. The actual problem is that the health care providers don’t have what they need to give large people adequate care without putting themselves and/or us at risk for injury/health issues, and that’s not a good situation for anyone.
So I think that instead of pointing the finger at each other, fat people and health care providers should form a team against the problem. For example in some large people turning them face down causes breathing problems because their fat compresses against their diaphragm. They have massage tables with cutouts so that pregnant bellies don’t get squished, why can’t they do the same thing for fat people? It seems like these problems are solvable if we just put some effort into solving them.