After millions of years of evolution, the body shape of Americans changed dramatically in just two decades. Back in 1991, only four U.S. states reported obesity rates exceeding 15 percent. By 2002, all 50 states had passed that milestone, making us the heaviest developed nation on earth. Then it got worse – today, more than 20 percent of the citizens in every state except Colorado are obese. In some states, it’s much worse. Nationally, two of every five Americans are obese, compared to two of every 28 French citizens and fewer than two of every hundred Japanese.
If overweight Americans collectively made minor behavior adjustments and returned to what they weighed in 1991, they would save the country more than $1 trillion a year. And it’s not just paunchy baby boomers sending treatment costs through the roof. Doctors now frequently find “adult” diabetes and other lifestyle diseases in our increasingly obese children. That’s why any program to reverse the obesity trend should start in our schools. Sadly, only 29 percent of U.S. high-school students participate in what used to be mandatory physical education classes. About the same percentage watch television four or more hours a day.
Congress can’t mandate that we lose weight. And local laws limiting or disclosing restaurant food ingredients seem ineffective. But several forward-thinking businesses have had success with employee wellness programs that typically offer reduced major-medical insurance premiums as a reward for losing weight, lowering cholesterol, optimizing blood pressure or quitting smoking.
Johnson & Johnson offers employees a wide array of services including fitness centers, online tools and classes. Safeway’s program has kept costs flat for five years while reducing obesity and other signs of employee morbidity. These are effective ways to limit rising health care costs. We have a choice: We can pay now through wellness programs or we can pay later – and pay much more – by treating chronic diseases.
- Obesity (41staid.wordpress.com)
- Pancreatic Cancer and Obesity (everydayhealth.com)
- How to Avoid the Obesity Epidemic (everydayhealth.com)
- Prevention of Overweight and Obesity in Infants and Toddlers (education.com)
- Docs advising ‘surprisingly few’ overweight Canadians to shed pounds:Study (canada.com)
- Study says ‘surprisingly few’ overweight Canadians are being advised by docs to lose pounds (windsorstar.com)