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Open AccessCommentary

Morbid Obesity in Disasters: Bringing the “Conspicuously Invisible” into Focus

Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington 6242, New Zealand
Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University & GNS Science, Wellington 6021, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(10), 1029;
Received: 14 September 2016 / Revised: 17 October 2016 / Accepted: 17 October 2016 / Published: 20 October 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Evolving Relationship between Science and Disaster Risk Reduction)
PDF [259 KB, uploaded 22 October 2016]


It is a frightening reality for some people to be caught up in the midst of a disaster, alone and vulnerable due to their relative size, shape or weight. A literature search failed to find any empirical reports of data specific to body mass index (BMI) in disaster situations. A handful of largely anecdotal reports described situations in which people categorised as morbidly obese were negatively impacted in disasters because of their size and/or weight. While a small number of toolkits and training resources were found, there remains a paucity of research in relation to obesity and emergency planning or disaster risk reduction. This is somewhat surprising, considering the concern about increasing levels of obesity globally. Research is urgently needed to prioritise and address the specific considerations of people with morbid obesity and how communities plan, prepare, respond, and recover from disasters and public health emergencies. View Full-Text
Keywords: obesity; vulnerability; disaster risk reduction; natural disasters; emergency planning; preparedness obesity; vulnerability; disaster risk reduction; natural disasters; emergency planning; preparedness
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Gray, L.; MacDonald, C. Morbid Obesity in Disasters: Bringing the “Conspicuously Invisible” into Focus. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13, 1029.

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