Laura Baker is a brain cancer patient who could not get a CT scan because of her plus size is a highlighter of the challenges that obese people face on a daily basis to receive basic healthcare facilities.
Baker is a retired special education teacher based out of Santa Barbara in California, who needed a CT scan of her head. The scanner at her local hospital was not available to her despite being working because of her size.
People With Obesity Face Major Challenges While Seeking Routine Healthcare
Although the advertised weight in the scanner machine was 625 pounds, it still could not accommodate Baker.
The sad reality associated with obesity:
Laura Baker had sent out a Facebook post expressing her distress, where she had asked for fundraising to help her get a portable scanner machine.
Early in her life, she had suffered from two medical conditions that caused immense fat deposits in her midsection, legs, and thighs, making her obese for most of her life.
Sadly without much help from anyone, Baker passed away in July 2020. The reality just begins here as there are not just one but many such obese individuals in the US.
Such individuals face a number of obstacles to get access to basic healthcare facilities owing to their size. Some of the common issues are blood pressure cuffs that don’t fit in their hand or scanning machines that are not of the appropriate size to accommodate an obese individual.
Stigmatization further complicating the issue:
It is not just the equipment that seems inadequate for obese patients, oftentimes even doctors fail to look beyond weight.
That results in the patients getting a rote response of losing weight regardless of their symptoms. This leads to many serious health complications going undetected and obese people avoiding doctor visits until their condition becomes life-threatening.
Obesity in the US:
According to Dr. Robert Kushner, obesity medicine specialist at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, obesity is another kind of pandemic that the US is facing, yet the healthcare system is not well equipped to handle the situation.
Presently 1 in every 3 Americans have obesity and the numbers are steadily increasing. According to a 2020 report of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of the population had obesity.
Although most of the obese population does not face dire challenges like Baker, for those with a Body Mass Index of 40 or above, seen in almost 9.2% of the adult population, facing obstacles for routine medical procedures is a norm.
Challenges extending beyond medical equipment:
As obesity continued to become a health concern in the US, the medical field has not evolved adequately, giving rise to a shortage of experienced doctors who have the knowledge to treat patients with obesity.
According to Kushner, most doctors are not well equipped with the knowledge on how to approach the medical issues of an obese patient.
As result, obese people face a regular challenge to find a doctor who can understand their issues and an office that can accommodate them.
However some ray of hope is seen as the American Board of Obesity Medicine is now offering certification in how to treat obese patients, and a total of 5242 physicians have received the certification in the US and Canada.
Eradicating the fat bias from the field of medicine and healthcare:
Experts clarify that people who are obese are more prone to developing diabetes and heart conditions, although contrary to the popular stigma, obesity is not always caused by an unhealthy diet and inadequate exercise.
There are chronic conditions like lymphedema and lipedema, more common in women than men.
Lymphedema can cause an unusual swelling of the hands and the legs due to build-up of the lymphatic fluid and lipedema can cause fat tissue development in certain body parts even if the individual is otherwise healthy.
Such conditions are difficult to diagnose and do not respond to treatment options like bariatric surgery and diet or exercise.