People too Large for Burial and Cremation 8/25/11
CBS 7 News
August 25, 2011
Odessa, Texas -
In part two of our special report on obesity in west Texas, we’re examining the ways your weight can lead you to the grave faster than you’d like and how obesity is changing the face of many industries.
It turns out that extra pounds can affect you before and after you die.
Recent numbers indicate that about one third of Americans are over-weight, a burden they carry everyday, affecting their health and way of life.
But the problem is becoming so big, that it's affecting them even after their death, and many industries are taking notice.
"The funeral home industry today is challenged by the fact that people today are just bigger", says Steve Smith, owner of Imperial Woodworks in Waco.
Just ask funeral director Bert Vandiver what it's like trying to fit people into a coffins that are too small.
"We'd see more of the body outside of the casket and that didn't look right and then of course the standard casket was pretty narrow so you'd see people's shoulders rolling in and it just didn't fit", says Vandiver.
The problem doesn't stop with caskets.
Vandiver also struggles when people are cremated.
"It's a challenge that's for sure, the cremation side of obesity is definitely a challenge", says Vandiver.
There's no solution to the cremation problem yet.
But a Midland man has started building extra large caskets and he's discovering there's no shortage of demand.
It's clear that obesity creates challenges after one passes away, but ironically, their weight is often what leads to their demise.
We told Odessa Physician Anne Acreman about the need for oversized caskets.
"Unfortunately it's not surprising at all because we're seeing those people for medical issues before they get to the stage where the funeral director has services to provide”, she says.
The deadly health problems associated with obesity are numerous.
"They all contribute to an early demise, from heart disease, deathly complications from diabetes, strokes related to poorly controlled high blood pressure", says Dr. Acreman.
As waistlines continue to grow, industries are forced to stretch their services...
"There is a whole medical product industry of building extra large hospital beds, extra wide wheel chairs", says Acreman.
"I don't know that there's a facility in either Midland or Odessa that can handle anybody probably over 350 pounds and you might think that's not a big deal but believe me it comes up".
The thing about the obesity problem in America and west Texas is that yes, it is affecting the way people are being put to rest but it's also causing people to die earlier and doctors will tell you it's not just the middle age, not just the elderly, but even children are being affected sooner than ever before.
It's truly becoming a problem that's stretching from the cradle, all the way to the grave.
"We clearly have an issue with very overweight children", says Dr. Acreman.
She says kids are being bombarded with fast food, oftentimes before they have a chance to avoid it and choose healthier options.
"It doesn't help with all this highly processed, high calorie fast, fattening food that we've all become addicted to because of our lifestyles. Both hospitals here in Odessa have bariatric surgery programs and you never heard of this kind of weight loss surgery 10 or 15 years ago", says Dr. Acreman.
But times have changed and it appears people aren't getting smaller, which means more industries will have to expand and adapt like casket companies and hospitals already have.
It's a problem creating consequences at every stage of life and after death and a problem that affects you or someone you know.
"Anything we can do to help these people lose weight is probably a good investment in their health", says Dr. Acreman.
It appears to be an investment that can pay off early on and much later as well.