Dealing With Obesity In the U.S.

Obesity is a problem in every state in America according to U.S. obesity trend data released Tuesday, July 19th, by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The latest data shows that the rate of obesity in the United States continues to increase.  Twelve of the states are reporting an obesity rate of thirty percent or higher among adults, whereas four years ago, only one state was above thirty percent.   An adult is considered obese if his or her Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 or above.  The BMI measures body fat based on an individual’s height and weight.

Interestingly enough, the obesity epidemic continues to be the most severe in the South, which includes nine of the ten states with the highest adult obesity rates.  “Today, the state with the lowest obesity rate would have had the highest rate in 1995,” Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, said in a news release.  “There was a clear tipping point in our national weight gain over the last twenty years, and we can’t afford to ignore the impact obesity has on our health and corresponding healthcare spending.”

Most healthcare professionals would agree that the obesity epidemic is one of the top healthcare priorities in the United States. Some of the leading causes of death are obesity-related: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.  Obesity also contributes to high blood pressure, cardiac and respiratory problems and a variety of arthritic conditions.  The challenges of caring for and treating an obese patient arise in every healthcare setting. When a larger, heavier patient accesses nursing care, the nurses need to adjust their treatments. Physical size can complicate even the most basic interventions for obese patients.

One of the many challenges that obese patients face is in maintaining the integrity of the skin.  Tubes and catheters often get burrowed in the skin causing skin erosion.  This can be prevented by repositioning the tubes and catheters at least every two hours.  Repositioning is difficult though, with patients who are immobile.  In fact, immobility itself presents a host of health hazards.  Some common immobility-related complications include muscle atrophy, urinary stasis, pain management problems and depression.

When caring for an obese patient, nurses know there may be respiratory challenges, altered drug absorption and difficulties with assessment and resuscitation measures.  Nurses can best serve the larger, heavier patient by understanding that there are different physical and emotional needs of the obese patient.

We know it will take time and resources to win the fight against obesity.  It is imperative to change the environments that make it difficult to eat healthy and make it hard for people to be active.  If we can do this, we will not only be helping today’s adults, but also making an investment in our children and grandchildren so they won’t have to deal with this serious and costly health burden.

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