Thursday, June 08, 2006

Extra-Wide Load Ambulances In Australia

This is the Australian government's answer to the obesity problem

Steve at the Against The Grain blog alerted me to what they are doing in his home country of Australia to deal with the obesity problem.

Have they started a national exercise program? Nope!
How about a healthy eating initiative? Uh-uh.
Free gym memberships to all Australians? Get real.

No, they've done something that is truly unique and is sure to catch on worldwide (can you feel the sarcasm?!). They've created five new ambulances for fat people like the one you see pictured above. This is NOT a joke!

A new $3 million funding package in the legislature would pay for reinforced ambulances to withstand weights up to 350kg, or 775 pounds! They will also pay for special heavy duty and oversized wheelchairs, stretchers and lifters with this money. The tentative rollout date for this new equipment to be up and running is February 2007.

The news story cited by Steve said this is all a "direct reaction to Australia's obesity epidemic" and the more frequent need to rush the "morbidly obese" to the hospital for weight-related healthy problems. Paramedics are also complaining that lifting these patients is putting their health and safety at risk.

Actually, this $3 million package is only a small part of a $25 million "anti-obesity" initiative in the budget, with $10 million more going to fund healthy eating and exercise programs for Australian children, a series of $50,000 grants available to schools who want to grow a vegetable garden, another set of $6,000 grants for schools who promote and encourage physical activity and healthy nutrition (didn't we used to call that P.E.?), and much, much more.

Hospitals are also getting in on the action by making their facilities and equipment "fat-friendly" with larger doorways and bathrooms as well as sturdier toilets, arm rails and beds that will hold patients weighing up to 500kg, or nearly 1,100 pounds!

All of this reminds me of the recent story in the United States to make larger child car seats because the little munchkins are getting too fat. Ugh!

While I can see the need to make accomodations to take care of these people, where is the focus on getting these people to start living healthy? If we make the ambulances bigger, then who's to say in 25 years we won't need to make THOSE even bigger? Hmmmm? When will the madness stop?

Even as the CSIRO "Total Wellbeing Diet" is enjoying incredible success in Australia right now, that country still has a serious problem with around half of the population being overweight or obese. The numbers are MUCH worse in the U.S. with two out of every three Americans overweight or obese, but nothing is being done about the problem itself.

Building bigger facilities and equipment is like putting a band-aid on a deep and large laceration! It may cover up the problem in the here and now, but you still have to deal with the root cause of the cut at some point. We need to stitch up that wound to start the healing process and teaching people how to deal with their obesity rather than just living with it is the beginning of that process.

I'm not saying this is an easy process by any means. But throwing our hands up in the air and just resigning ourselves to the fact that people are big will not resolve the underlying problem. Creating a sense of urgency for the overweight and obese and even providing them an incentive for losing weight would be a better way to spend that $25 million than what the Australian government currently has in mind.

I'm sure my Australian friend and winner of that country's inaugural "Biggest Loser" show Adro Sarnelli would agree. The time for dealing with obesity is NOW. Stop waiting on a government program to get you to do it, make TODAY the first day of the rest of your healthy life. If for not other reason, DO IT for yourself. It'll be the best thing that you could ever do!

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Blogger Mark F said...

Mixed feelings here. EMT's, paramedics, nurses, doctors, aids all need the right tools and if they are having to deal with many very obese people those hard working folks need the right equipment to prevent injuries to him.

But this ought to be a wake-up call to better health and a wake-up call to realize obesity doesn't just hurt the person but many others as well and raises costs for taxpayers.

6/10/2006 8:36 AM  

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