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Bariatric response team, morbidly obese patients

Famine The Only Cure For Obesity

 By Dr. Gifford Jones

“How can the obesity problem be solved in our country?” a U.S. interviewer recently asked me. I hadn’t had too many Martini’s, and wasn’t joking, when I replied, “It would take a famine!” Consider the failures.

The city of Calgary has just proclaimed itself “Number One”. Not because the Calgary Flames won the Stanley Cup. Rather, it’s the first city in Canada to have a “bariatric response team”, not an elite anti-terror squad, but trained paramedics with a $30,000 mechanical system to lift morbidly obese patients onto a stretcher.

In March of this year Florida paramedics required three hours, some plywood, two stretchers, and removal of a window to get a 500-pound man out of his home. Massachusetts paramedics needed rock-climbing equipment, an aerial platform and a U-haul to transport an 855-pound man to hospital.

There’s been a mind-boggling increase in morbidly obese patients (100 pounds or more overweight) in the U.S. In 2000 there were 4.2 million in this category. Now it’s 6.8 million. In Canada, the number has quadrupled since 1985.

Obesity is not just affecting adults. A report from the Institute of Medicine in the U.S. says nine million children are obese. Another U.S. report shows that children whose mothers are obese are 15 X more likely to be obese by six years of age. Obese children usually grow up to be obese adults.

Dr. Ariel Feldstein, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reports seeing non-alcoholic fatty degeneration of the liver in children with an average age of 12. In the worst case the child’s liver ends up looking like the liver of those suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis.

In the past obesity was thought to be a genetic problem. This does cause some obesity, but it cannot account for the massive increase in recent years. Rather, a huge bundle of chronic bad habits, compounded by failure after failure to correct them, is the culprit.

So we’re going to see more bariatric response teams in this country. I like to believe that sane people will eventually see the light. Certainly an abundance of books and headlines link obesity to nasty diseases. And since no one wants to become ill or die, there should be great motivation to maintain a normal weight.

The problem is there’s an abundance of sinful foods in this country. Supermarkets are full of items you either shouldn’t eat or at least eat only in moderation.

But in a free-market economy are supermarket managers going to remove these products from shelves and watch customers move to other stores? Hell will freeze over before that happens.

It appears that hell will also freeze before consumers realize the tragedy of obesity and stop purchasing these foods. Fast foods have become so ingrained into our habits that it would take the coming of a Messiah for this to occur. Go into any supermarket in the U.S. and it’s blatantly evident that few are getting the message.

Nor do consumers find virtue in restaurants. Everything has become super-size. Or it’s “Friday and all-you-can-eat night”. Temptations to eat excessively are everywhere. Is this going to change?

Will schools suddenly get wise and insist on compulsory daily exercise programs? School boards and health departments have had years to legislate this common sense measure to fight obesity. There’s no evidence of it happening.

Can doctors lead an assault on obesity? Not many have the time or knowledge to teach nutrition. In fact, most spend more time talking about the dangers of blood cholesterol than obesity. Yet more people will die of obesity complications than will ever succumb to high blood cholesterol.

So I’m not being facetious when I suggest it would take a famine to fight the obesity epidemic. And there’s one point no one mentions about $30,000 mechanical lifts. They simply deposit obese patients in the hospital. Then what?

How are nurses and hospital personnel supposed to handle the morbidly obese? In two words, not easily. Whatever way you slice the cake nurses face a horrendous dilemma dealing with obese patients.

It’s high time somebody mentioned this fact.

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones

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