Taking a look around your local shopping mall, you will surely notice what the scientific evidence bears out: America has a serious and growing obesity problem.
In 2018, the most recent year with strong data on the subject, 42% of the American population was obese. That astonishing figure, according to the experts, represents a 12% increase in obesity rates just within the past decade or so. The impact of America’s obesity issue, which cannot be overstated, has drastically redefined the day-to-day activities of healthcare workers in America’s clinics and hospitals.
Increase in Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery is a type of surgical intervention with the intent of reducing the intake and/or absorption of calories through the intestines.
The growing waistline of the average American has forced a significant and costly rise in bariatric surgery. In a four-year period covered in this study, for example, the rate of bariatric surgery skyrocketed from just 6.3 per 100,000 adults to 32.7. Those figures have increased further each year since.
Similarly, the number of bariatric surgeons who operate on obese patients full-time has increased, as has the number of healthcare centers devoted to the practice.
Larger Hospital Beds
Obese people have a hard time, often, finding comfortable seating on airplanes or in movie theaters. A similar issue presents itself with hospital beds, which have undergone a bit of restructuring since the obesity epidemic kicked off in full swing.
Conventional hospital beds typically have weight limits well below 800 pounds—not enough to accommodate extremely obese patients. Accordingly, many hospitals now use a standard 1050lb capacity bed frame for obesity which is frequently referred to as a “bariatric bed.”
Hospital Staff Safety
The beds that hold obese patients are not the only casualty of the obesity epidemic. Staff, whose duties often include helping obese patients into and out of beds, chairs, or other equipment or furniture risk injury from the burden.
Additional Extra Equipment to Accommodate Obese Patients
Beds designed to hold extra weight are by no means the only pieces of specialized equipment that hospitals must important to accommodate obese patients.
Other examples of items specifically designed for heavier patients include bedside commodes, wheelchairs, and walkers. All of these additional pieces of equipment, taken together, can add hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in additional operational costs for larger hospitals.
Without a reversal in skyrocketing obesity rates, the healthcare infrastructure of the United States will likely undergo even more transformation in the years to come.