Supersizing Health Care

As readers will recall, I am currently co-hosting a national workshop to develop a research agenda for bariatric care in Canada.

Following a most touching and thoughtful kick-off presentation, by two remarkable individuals who shared their personal experiences and battles with severe obesity, most of yesterday was spent reviewing and discussing knowledge gaps in the care and treatment of adults and children with severe obesity.

This condition now affects millions of Canadians and it is clear that there will be no simple solutions in the foreseeable future.

Not only does this mean that we have to be more serious about providing obesity treatments but it also means that we will be seeing an ever increasing number of individuals with severe obesity in our health care system.

This has a wider range of important implications for health authorities, including the challenge of providing safe and appropriate physical environments in clinical facilities.

As outlined by Lili Liu, Professor and Chair Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Alberta, healthcare organizations across the nation will need to adapt their care practices to address the increasing needs of this bariatric population.

As the healthcare industry now works on developing equipment that addresses the requirements for bariatrics, architects and designers must consider the sizes and ratings of exam tables, surgical tables, stretchers, patient beds, imaging equipment, bariatric furniture, floor scales, commodes, wheelchairs, recliners, floor-mounted toilets, lifts, and repositioning devices.

Some of these challenges are nicely outlined in the Planning and Design Guidelines for Bariatric Healthcare Facilities published by the American Institute of Architecture.

Thus, not only is more research required into new treatments, health services delivery and other aspects of patient care, but also into the design and structure of health care facilities.

I would certainly love to hear from individuals with severe obesity, who have encountered problems with accessing health care due to design and physical limitations of health care facilities.

Montreal, Quebec