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Bigger Dubai Ambulances as Indicator of UAE’s Growing Obesity Problem

March 8, 2017 | The National UAE

DUBAI // The increasing number of obese patients is putting health providers under strain, the director of Dubai’s ambulance service said as he rolled out new vehicles built to be able to carry people who weigh more than 250 kilograms.

The move to provide larger ambulances was an indicator of the UAE’s growing obesity problem, doctors said.

Last year, 14 patients in Dubai, each of them weighing more than 250kg, were taken to hospital in ambulances that struggled to cope with their bulk.

Khalifa bin Drai, executive director of Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services, said: “The corporation realised that obese patients posed a dilemma for ambulance services when we had to transfer an Emirati woman weighing 400kg to a hospital four years ago.

“The woman may have been an extreme case, but the growing number of obese patients has prompted the ambulance service to introduce new equipment and vehicles for them.”

Two new vehicles were introduced by the service, said Motaz Yousef, head of the vehicle maintenance section at DCAS.

“The corporation has introduced different vehicles to cope with obese patients. There are vehicles that can carry 350kg and other vehicles that can carry up to 500kg. “The new vehicles are equipped with strengthened stretchers capable of expanding to carry overweight patients.

“Having an ambulance to deal with overweight people is very important.”

And it’s not just the ambulances facing a heavy load, he said. “Imagine if a paramedic weighs only 60kg and has to carry a patient who weighs more than 250kg – it is impossible.”

Dr Zeeshan Khan, a specialist in Internal Medicine at Medeor Hospital, was clear about the obesity issue.

“Obesity continues to be a problem in Emirati society and it starts by adopting unhealthy habits from a young age. It starts from eating junk food at school canteens and coming back home to eat more while watching TV,” Dr Khan said.

“According to a recent publication I read, 30 per cent of the whole world is either obese or overweight. The number in the UAE is proportionately twice the number in the world. This is a huge number of people overweight here.

“I believe that the UAE’s high rate of obesity is because of the indoor lifestyle, eating habits, lack of exercise, spending hours driving and then coming home to be a couch potato.”

Dr Abdel Rahman Omer, colorectal surgeon at Burjeel Hospital, said that obesity was the beginning of a downward health spiral.

“The more obese a person is, the more likely they are to have medical problems related to obesity. They usually suffer from heart problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, breathing problems and joint pain in the knees or lower back,” he said.

“Aside from the medical complications, obesity is also linked to psychosocial problems such as low self-esteem, discrimination and difficulty finding employment.

“Appropriate weight management can be done easily. But following a healthy lifestyle should start from an early age. Parents have a great impact on their children’s lifestyle.”

Adopting a healthy lifestyle includes taking up physical activity, having a healthy diet and being brave enough to make changes to bad habits.

“Tackling obesity requires lifestyle and behavioural changes, doctors agreed.