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Obesity rates fuel need for bariatrics

Obesity rates fuel need for bariatrics

The need for bariatric products only continues to grow as obesity levels rise in the U.S., driven of late by the stubborn COVID-19 virus, according to a new report. 

Trust for America’s Health, a Washington-based non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes health and wellness, found that the pandemic “has exacerbated the nation’s obesity rate,” as it “changed eating habits, worsened levels of food insecurity, created obstacles to physical activity and heightened stress.” 

Since the pandemic began, 42% of adults in the U.S. gained an “undesired amount of weight,” a Harris Poll conducted in February 2021 revealed. American adults reported gaining an average of 29 pounds as adult obesity surpassed 40% for the first time since 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. 

"There needs to be an influx of new products with technology advancement,” said Renae Storie, vice president of Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility Products. “At Pride and Quantum Rehab, we are continuing to develop new and innovative products in our current lineup.” 

Pride has several bariatric offerings in the Group 2 HD and Group 3 HD categories and in 2021 it launched the J4 HD with single power and the 4Front 2 HD Group 3 front-wheel drive power chair. The company plans to launch the Jazzy EVO 614 HD in 2022. 

Chris Carroll, director of marketing for Old Forge, Pa.-based Golden Technologies, observes that “demand is as strong as ever” for bariatric-grade products and HME providers are continuing to offer Golden’s long-standing line of extra-wide power lift recliners. 

“We’ve recently redesigned these models to add both comfort and value with features like our signature seat, extended arms to provide better utility while entering and exiting the chair while lifted, a new arm style with plush padding, a refreshed seamed back design and luxurious chenille fabrics,” Carroll said. 

Optimizing service 

The bariatrics category requires precise matching of patients to the right equipment, so HME providers serving this market need to be cognizant of patients’ special requirements, as well as product dimensions and capacities, said Jay Brislin, vice president of Exeter, Pa.-based Quantum Rehab. 

“Service should be managed in the same manner as any other power products,” he said. “Regardless of the diagnosis, all clients, especially Group 3, present several challenges to ensure the proper chair is selected, as well as all seating and comfort needs are met. With the bariatric population, some of these challenges can be a bit more difficult based on factoring in extra client weight and the best way to position that client for optimal comfort and function.” 

Assuring the client is positioned properly with the correct seating “helps not to exacerbate any present physical issues the client may have, such as repositioning for pressure relief and helps prevent future pressure complications,” Brislin said. 

Carroll added that the best way for retailers to provide service to bariatric patients is to educate themselves on specialty products and how to market them.  

“A power lift recliner helps a patient maintain independence and dignity, making it easier to rise from the chair or sit back in the chair, so they can go about their day,” she said. “Lift recliners are often used for more than just the occasional nap. Many patients rely on them as the only place they can be comfortable enough to get truly restorative sleep. With that in mind, we design our chairs with ultimate comfort features.” 

Yet not all bariatric product clients truly need larger equipment – they just want it, said Reina Brown, director of product management for Port Washington, N.Y.-based Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare. 

“Some end-users are just looking for the extra space and comfort, as well,” she said. 

Challenges & solutions 

COVID-19’s challenges for the bariatric market also extends to finding referral sources, Brown said. 

“The primary referral source is still the discharge planners and social workers at hospitals, followed by physician offices and bariatric centers,” she said. “With hospitals not letting people in to live in-services, getting in front of the referral source isn't easy.” 

Brown recommends using e-mail, virtual meetings and marketing campaigns to reach referral sources until the COVID threat wanes and live meetings are once again allowed. 

Supply chain issues are another obstacle, Brown said. 

“It has been especially challenging to provide bariatric equipment,” she said. “Space constraints and costly freight force companies to provide more standard-sized products that are quicker to move for the general population and fit more into a container. Bariatric equipment is often larger, bulkier and more costly to deliver.”  Be complete: Offering the complete array of products and services ensures that providers fill the comprehensive needs that bariatric patients require.


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