Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sexism and size-ism in health care

I follow Ragen Chastain's blog, Dances with Fat (http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/blog/).

Today I was reading an article of hers which jolted me and got me to see a bunch of things differently than I usually do -- in one of those lightning-flash kinds of ways:

Many people who contacted me were told that it was simply impossible to properly diagnose someone of their BMI, or that treating them is a “waste of time” since they are likely to re-injure themselves anyway.  One woman was told that, at 5’4, 250 pounds, she was simply to big to get an MRI. 
I find that interesting because last week the following people received the absolute best medical  treatment, including in some cases MRI,  with no discussion of weight loss at all: 
6’2, 308 pounds   – knee injury – “class 3 obesity” (Super Fat!)
6’4, 285 pounds – arm injury – “class 2 obese”
6’4, 263 pounds – ankle injury – “class 1 obese”
6’3, 260 pounds  – achiles injury – “class 1 obese” 
These are, in fact, just a handful of “obese” people who were afforded evidence-based medical care for injuries without being required to lose weight and despite the fact that they are very, very likely to re-injure themselves. 
Read on:

The message, to me, is really clear:
  • If you are male and are "obese" and play (American) football (especially for the NFL), you get one standard of care.  
  • If you are female and are "obese", it doesn't much matter what activities you're capable of -- international competitive dance being one -- and you get a different standard of care.  One where you don't actually get treatment for what's wrong with you.  

This leads me to ask:
  • What activities do we, as a society, place value on?  
  • Which people are we willing to treat with evidence-based care, and which people do we demand undergo "treatments" that have no supporting evidence, but lots of supporting cultural narrative?  
  • Why do our cultural narratives support evidence-based care for one group, but not another?  


Liz Pagan said...

No surprise. Football is pretty close to a national religion.

Morgan said...

Ohmigosh, Liz, I laughed -- though a trifle bitterly.