A looming health crisis

WHAT NOW? According to Axios “New CDC data says that 18% of American kids are now obese, and so are 40% of adults. Those numbers are projected to grow. This means that there will be more adults down the road with chronic conditions, such as diabetes — which will be costly for patients and the system alike.

The elephant in the room: obesity is a crisis situation that’s going to increase healthcare costs for decades. In fact, millennials are on track to be the most obese generation.
Today all you need to do is pick up your iPhone to have fast food delivered. You can turn on home electronics and change TV channels without leaving the couch. A couch potato is defined as one who spends little or no time exercising and a great deal of time watching television.

The financial cost of obesity is high, as well. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.”

Obesity hasn’t doubled. It’s nearly tripled in the United States over the last fifty years.
In the early 1960s, fewer than 14 percent of the individuals possessed a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. The figures collected by the CDCs National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHNES) are closer to 40 percent.

Americans don’t get much exercise, but in fact, they need to exercise at least an hour a day to stay healthy, according to guidelines issued in September 2002 by the National Institute of Medicine. Members of a 21-person panel that issued the guidelines said they were concerned about the jump in obesity rates over the last few decades. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), all healthy adults should be getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. Modern conveniences keep people from the activities they need to stay in shape.

It’s time to attack obesity

Politicians who keep talking about prescription drug prices are ignoring the obesity epidemic. Insurers need to do more than tell patients they are overweight; they need to either scare them that they are heading for terrible disease or charge them more money if they don’t exercise.

Employers, too, need to get in the fight against obesity. Helping employees lose weight is a great way to reduce company healthcare costs. Sponsored activities, like a daily walk around campus and allowing employees time to exercise, are needed.

Should insurance companies charge obese people more money? That’s a loaded question, but if there is no medical reason why a person is overweight, other than they don’t eat right or exercise, they should pay more money. The option of doing and saying nothing is long past.