Our healthcare has failed us

IN SUMMARY: American healthcare is failing. Not only has the FDA become a political pawn but almost half the population is now obese. While there are lots of reasons for this the silence of healthcare providers is a huge reason.

The adult obesity rate passed 40 percent nationally for the first time according to the 2017–2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a 26 percent jump from 2007–2008. More recent state-level data from the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) confirm the trend that adult obesity rates continue to climb.

In 2019, 12 states had obesity rates in the highest category for this survey (35 percent or greater), a jump from three states in 2014, and nine in 2018.

Despite this continuing rise in obesity and its consequences, the United States has failed to create a coordinated and comprehensive response to the obesity epidemic.

The United States needs bolder policies and more investment in long- term, evidence-based programs that reduce obesity; more collaboration across public and private sectors; more innovation and better solutions to the obesity crisis; and continued attention and more action on addressing the structural and systemic inequities that undermine many Americans’ health.

Obesity has serious health consequences including increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and many types of cancers. Obesity is estimated to increase healthcare spending by $149 billion annually (about half of which is paid for by Medicare and Medicaid) and being overweight or having obesity is the most common reason young adults are ineligible for military service. Concerns about the impact of obesity have taken on new dimensions this year as having obesity is one of the underlying health conditions associated with the most serious consequences of COVID infection, including hospitalization and death. These new data mean that 42 percent of all Americans are at increased risk of serious, possibly fatal, health impacts from COVID-19 due to their weight and health conditions related to obesity.

So what’s being done? Nothing!

Insurers should be contacting obese patients and counseling them about the dangers of obesity but what’s really needed is a national initiative to communicate the dangers of obesity with a public that doesn’t want to hear the truth. We need to do to obesity what we did for smoking.

If that doesn’t work then patients who are obese need to pay more for health insurance, plain and simple.

Every company that has anything to do with health needs to remind people that obesity is a killer. Pharma should include warnings about obesity on every drug product page that could be caused by obesity.

Finally we need healthcare on wheels to visit the poor rural states where obesity is all too common and help educate them about the dangers they face.

Look, I like a good cheeseburger with fries as well as anyone else but I understand that I can’t eat them often. My diet has changed to more chicken and fish and less red meat and high fattening foods. I ride my bike 100 miles a week to get exercise and I really watch my caloric intake. If I can do it others can too.

Unless we tackle the obesity epidemic soon we’re all going to pay for it.