How Obesity is Reshaping Ambulances to Airliners

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/04/2011 04:48:00 PM
A few weeks ago, I admittedly pigged out on the globalization of American-style obesity. While it may be a laughing matter to some, you can chalk it up as another dubious American export alike the subprime mess that's being inflicted on the rest of the world in the name of "progress." Besides, it will be increasingly difficult to call others fat in America given how astoundingly portly your average American has become, with current trends pointing towards a further accumulation of cellulite. (Speaking of which, why doesn't the Miss America pageant ask contestants hard-hitting questions about how unrepresentative they are when the average American woman has a 37-inch waistline according to CDC figures?) To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, there's nothing certain in American life other than cellulite and debt. Taxes? I think they've forgotten about the importance of revenues to achieving fiscal balance.

The health costs of dealing with such dietary indiscipline characteristic of a too-soft culture are evident. However, did you ever observe the wide-ranging changes that have to be made in serving a world full of supersized individuals? Let's just say service providers in both public and private sectors have to adjust to these weighty issues instead of the other way around. Auntie has a morbidly fascinating article on this very topic as this US disease makes its way across the Atlantic:
It emerged this week that ambulance services across the country [UK] are having to revamp their fleets to cope with heavier patients. "A few years ago, probably only 10 years ago, your average patient was 12 to 13 stone - now that's probably 17 to 18 stone [238 to 252 pounds]. And we quite regularly see patients around 30 stone in weight and even bigger than that," says Nigel Wells of West Midlands Ambulance Service.

The specialist equipment being stocked includes heavy-duty wheelchairs and stretchers, inflatable cushions for lifting patients, while ambulance tail-lifts are being reinforced. Many services are also buying specialist "bariatric" ambulances, at a cost of up to £90,000 each, equipped with double-width trolley stretchers and capable of carrying patients weighing up to 50 stone.

Many hospitals have had to take similar steps, investing in stronger beds and chairs, wider body scanners, and longer surgical instruments for use on obese patients. One NHS board in Scotland has spent more than £20,000 on three beds that can support people weighing up to 78 stone.
To be honest, British sports fans are like American ones in general: they like watching sports, but not necessarily doing them. Hence, hours spent on the couch watching sports on TV or sitting in the bleachers have inflicted their toll. Thankfully, discrimination isn't yet so blatant on carriers here just yet:
Facing similar pressures of cramming high numbers of people on closely-packed seating for prolonged periods are sports stadia. The new Wembley stadium, which opened in 2007, offers seats that are 50cm wide and 80cm deep - 9cm wider and 16cm deeper than at the old Wembley. "There is more leg room in every seat in the new Wembley stadium than there was in the royal box of the old stadium," the website declares.
Meanwhile, the aerospace industry is having to respond to the wider passengers of airlines nowadays. They don't call it "cattle class" for nothing, and it seems obesity is posing insuperable ergonomic challenges:
Gary Davis, Fellow of the Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors, has been working on cabin design with airlines for about 15 years. "He says that research into seating materials had allowed seat backs to be made thinner, increasing the space a passenger has up to the back of the seat in front...So you effectively increase cabin space without losing any seats, so you get the same number of seats in the aircraft but give the customer a better experience - it's a win-win situation if you can achieve that."

The more pressing problem - literally - of overweight passengers encroaching on neighbours' seats, was far harder to tackle, he says. "In terms of the width of economy-class seats on commercial airliners, there's not much you can do without going to the extreme of taking out whole lines of seats - and I can't see airlines doing that very willingly."
Perhaps the--how should I put it--generously dimensioned American film director Kevin Smith should right-size matters since pretty soon the wide load of globalization will be the norm rather than the exception.