Imagine a medicine that reduced the death rate of breast cancer and risk of recurrent breast cancer by 50% lowered the risks of colon cancer and type 2 diabetes by two-thirds, and those of heart disease, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s’ disease by 40%. On top of that, it can be as effective as antidepressants or cognitive behavioral therapy in countering depression. That medicine exists, says Dr. Edward Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic: It’s’ called exercise. But…
Only 23% of Americans Get Enough Exercise. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), less than a quarter of Americans are meeting all national physical activity guidelines. That means that the healthcare costs in the US will keep increasing as more people get preventable health problems.
Lack of exercise costs the world $67.5 billion and 5 million lives annually. A study of one million people has found that physical inactivity costs the global economy $67.5 billion annually in healthcare and productivity losses. Still, an hour a day of exercise could eliminate most of those health issues.
There isn’t one method to get people exercising; it will take an approach for every healthcare provider to communicate the importance of exercise. Pharma websites provide the prescription that can help people overcome health problems but too often, they ignore the patient’s responsibility to lose weight and exercise.
Lilly’s new diabetes drug is being talked about all over social media because of its weight loss properties, but what’s not mentioned is that it requires a diet modification and has side effects that can cause more severe health issues.
While the population is more worried about COVID, they are killing themselves by overeating processed food and not getting any exercise.
The FDA should require every pharma product website to devote part of its content to prevention and the importance of exercise. In addition, HCPs should be directed to inform patients that they are prime candidates for cancer, diabetes, and other serious health problems based on their examinations.
The irony for pharma is that by adding health information on the health condition in which their product competes, they can become more engaging to their audiences. Recent data reveals that there is a lot of health misinformation online. People are looking for credible sources of health information, so by becoming the “go-to source” for health information, pharma can exceed brand metrics.
Why don’t doctors have the “the talk”? The results of two surveys, one of primary care physicians and the other of patients, found that while most doctors want to help patients lose weight and think it is their responsibility to do so, they often don’t’ know what to say. The vast majority of doctors have little or no training in weight management and nutrition, and, they say, they’re’ not likely to have anyone else in their practice which can be of help.
This is where health insurers and pharma can help. I couldn’t find, for example, any CME on talking to patients about weight loss and exercise. If insurers could devote more of their profits to educating customers about the importance of weight loss, they could save money.
Writing an Rx is the easiest way to get a patient in and out the door with better outcomes, but I would argue that the medical community has failed us by writing Rxs too quickly without counseling patients. Going to a Registered Dietician should be covered by health insurance should the purchase of wearable activity bands.
Doing nothing because it’s too hard is not an option.