Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Jamaica has a weighty problem - Heart Foundation equipment buckling under the pressure from excessively obese persons

Published:Friday | January 26, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Dr Suzanne Soares-Wynter (right), clinical nutritionist, Caribbean Institute for Health Research, University of the West Indies, has the attention of Deborah Chen (left), executive director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica; Dr Andrene Chung (second right), consultant cardiologist, Heart Foundation; and Dr Tamu Davidson, director of the Non-Communicable Disease Unit of the Ministry of Health, during the launch of Heart Month at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday.

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica has a weighty burden to deal with.

They are losing equipment, and no, it's not robbery or vandalism. Some patients coming in to them are so overweight that the scales spin until they break. Equipment like the cuffs for blood pressure monitors cannot fit the circumference of their arms, and the chairs buckle under the excessive pressure.

In highlighting some of the issues at the launch of Heart Month earlier this week, Deborah Chen, executive director of the Heart Foundation, said that some persons coming in to weigh themselves and do various tests are simply extremely obese.

"We have a great problem in terms of obesity. On our mobile teams, we have to carry portable scales because the tall ones that you see in doctor's offices can't go on the mobile teams. These portable scales go up to 350 or 400 pounds, and sometimes, unfortunately, our scales get broken because our people are heavier. Our managers are constantly buying scales," she said at the event, which was held at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.

"I'm just showing you the extent of the problem that we have and giving you practical examples. Our blood pressure cuffs sometimes can't fit the patients. We have to get extra-large cuffs so that we can screen everybody because it's not one cuff fits all. Our chairs in our waiting area, they cannot accommodate 400 pounds. These are some of the issues that we face sometimes."

Chen also said that there is need to promote health and wellness as issues such as hypertension and heart diseases continue to be areas of concern.

"In terms of blood pressure, 21 per cent of the persons that we see are normal, which means that the rest are problematic. We do ECG (electrocardiogram) tests, and roughly half are normal and another half are not normal. It is interesting to note, too, that a lot of the men are abnormal. That's interesting because the people who usually seek medical help are women. For cholesterol, 71 per cent of persons are normal, and high risks are 10 per cent."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com