Obesity is defined as having a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 30 – a number calculated based on the height and weight of an individual which can vary between males and females.1 This epidemic is not a new concern for healthcare and has increasing effects on the entire healthcare system:
Obesity has a variety of impacts on the body. The increased pressure from the accumulation of fatty tissue causes pressure on internal organs leading to conditions such as:2
Healthcare workers are put at risk physically due to the additional strain they incur helping the obese patient with mobility. In order to prevent skin breakdown in the immobile patient, most staff follow a schedule in which the patient’s position must be changed every two to four hours.3 This may require additional staff depending on the weight of the patient. If no additional staff are available, a staff member may willingly put their own physical well-being in jeopardy while re-positioning a patient.
Hospital staff may do everything in their power to treat obese patients, however complications may still be unavoidable due to the detrimental effects of obesity on the human anatomy. Obesity is not always addressed as most medical conditions are – directly to the patient – since there is often concern around being insensitive when addressing weight issues.
It is extremely important to keep top of mind the many strains that obesity causes to the health care system. As a society, we must work towards eliminating this epidemic through education and prevention, while also collaborating to deliver the highest quality, safe and effective care possible to the current obese patient population.
Editor’s Note: This article previously ran in Connect – a monthly newsletter from Cardinal Health that connects people, best practices, and medical products throughout the healthcare industry. Visit Connect
1 Kushner, R. (2012) “Clinical Assessment and Management of Adult Obesity” Circulation, Vol 126 pages 2870-2877
2 Klein, S., Burke, L., Bray, G., Blair, S., Allison, D. (2004) “Clinical Implications of Obesity With Specific Focus on Cardiovascular Disease: A Statement for Professionals From the American Heart Association Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism” Circulation, Vol 110, pages 2952-2967
3 Camden, S. (2009), “Obesity: An Emerging Concern for Patients and Nurses”, OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol 14, No. 1
4 Kushner, R. (2012) “Clinical Assessment and Management of Adult Obesity” Circulation, Vol 126 pages 2870-2877
5 Camden, S. (2009), “Obesity: An Emerging Concern for Patients and Nurses”, OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol 14, No. 1
6 https://www.ncoa.org/wp-content/uploads/State-Policy-Toolkit-for-Advancing-Fall-Prevention-Select-Resources.pdf , Searched 3/13/2016
7 Collignon, J.D. “Strategies for Accommodating the Obese Patient in an Acute Care Setting”,http://www.aia.org/practicing/groups/kc/AIAS076325 , Searched 3/12/2016