HEY NOW: Cardiovascular disease costs $351 billion annually in health care spending and lost productivity, while diabetes costs $327 billion annually. These costs are largely because 71% of Americans are overweight and 42.5% are obese. It’s more of a national emergency than Covid, but you won’t find it in the news.
According to CNBC, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey says the key to keeping people healthy in the United States is for people to eat better and live healthier lives. “The best solution is to change the way people eat, the way they live, the lifestyle, and diet,” Mackey says. “There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be healthy and have a longer healthspan. A bunch of drugs is not going to solve the problem.”
In total, the United States spends $207 billion on preventive and general careservices, second only to cardiac and circulatory care. (Treating cancer, by contrast, costs Americans just $117 billion a year.) Preventing illness before it happens translates into better care.
For the last 40 years or so, obesity has been one of the nation’s most pervasive, and costly, public health challenges. And despite ongoing efforts to combat it, such as the AMA’s 2013 official recognition of obesity as a disease, the problem continues to worsen. A 2018 study published in JAMA found that the percentage of obese adults age 20 and over (defined as those with a BMI of 30 or more) increased from 33.7 percent in 2007-2008 to 39.6 percent in 2015-2016.
Even as the United States outspends the rest of the world on preventive care measures, not everyone sees the benefits. The U.S. system excels at serving people with private health insurance — but people lacking continuous coverage are almost four and a half times more likely to receive no preventive care at all and that costs us ALL.
I’ve been a huge supporter of having pharma product websites include more health information, including informing people of the dangers of preventative health problems. Pharma should strive to get patients off some prescription drugs because they lost weight and are eating well, but we know that’s not going to happen.
Research has shown that when some doctors tell patients to lose weight, many resort to “fast and dangerous” methods like OTC stimulants. By some estimates, 80% of people who successfully lose at least 10% of their body weight will gradually regain it to end up as large or even larger than they were before they went on a diet. Thus, a multitouch approach is needed that includes the federal government, the AMA, insurers, and HCP’s. I also believe that employers should be encouraging employees to join health clubs or sponsoring healthy seminars.
I would also like to see a pharma CEO say that success is measured by the number of people who don’t need to take daily medications to compensate for unhealthy lifestyles, but has a much a chance of happening as Trump becomes a caring person.
I cycle 100 miles a week to help stay in shape. It’s hasn’t been easy. Some days, I would rather skip riding, but deep inside, I know that I have to do what’s best for my health. I see people of all ages cycling, and in fact, the 55 plus demographic is the fastest-growing segment in cycling. If we don’t convey that exercise can be fun and add years to our lives, ALL of us will pay a huge price.
My doctor recently told me that she has stopped seeing patients who don’t take her advice on losing weight and exercising. That’s her choice, but I believe it’s wrong. Sugar can be as addictive as illegal drugs, especially when we’re reading bad news about the pandemic. Food compensates for unhappiness in many ways, but unless online health seekers specifically research this topic, they will never know the truth. It’s up to all healthcare touchpoints to communicate the real dangers of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other lifestyle chronic life conditions.
Don’t tell me it’s not the job of pharma to help people get healthy; that’s a copout. It’s all of our jobs.