Posted by: 4pack | October 23, 2009

“Obesity Epidemic”: The True “Costs” Of Treating The Obese Are Soaring

MOST OF THE STATISTICS REGARDING THE COSTS OF OBESITY ARE 3-5 YEARS OLD…WE REALLY DON’T KNOW THE CURRENT COSTS…THIS ARTICLE SITES A 2007 STUDY OF 2003 STATISTICS…THE COSTS ARE SOARING EACH YEAR…..WE KNOW THE NUMBER OF OBESE PEOPLE NOW BUT THE COSTS ARE LAGGING….

In Texas, the economic impact of chronic diseases, including obesity, is staggering. A 2007 Milken Institute study indicates that the cost of treatment was $17.2 billion in 2003 alone — and this skyrockets to $92.5 billion when you account for lost workplace productivity.

In Texas, the economic impact of chronic diseases, including obesity, is staggering. A 2007 Milken Institute study indicates that the cost of treatment was $17.2 billion in 2003 alone — and this skyrockets to $92.5 billion when you account for lost workplace productivity.

Recent headlines tell the story of a growing epidemic in America. In August, it was reported that people who are 80 or more pounds overweight live three to 12 fewer years than people who are normal weight, defined as between 18.5 and 25 on the body mass index scale. According to an article published in Health Affairs, one third of the rise in health care costs since 1987 is due to the rise in obesity. It is clear that obesity is taking its toll on our nation’s physical and financial well-being, and unless we act, our national waistline and debt will expand exponentially.

In Texas, the economic impact of chronic diseases, including obesity, is staggering. A 2007 Milken Institute study indicates that the cost of treatment was $17.2 billion in 2003 alone — and this skyrockets to $92.5 billion when you account for lost workplace productivity. This growing problem is a sad reminder that when you get right down to it, we don’t really have a health care system in America. Instead, we have a “sick care” system of uneven quality that uses most of its resources on treating people after they’re already sick.

The health care reform debate in Washington provides an opportunity to highlight prevention and wellness as both desirable and attainable goals of our system. Giving businesses incentives to create or expand workplace prevention and wellness programs would ensure that millions of Americans who get their health care through work have the tools they need to reduce their risk of illness. Stopping sickness from happening is a critical step to control the total cost of health care.

In Texas in 2007, nearly 66 percent of adults were overweight or obese. If we invested just $10 per person per year to increase physical activity, improved nutrition and prevented smoking and tobacco use, we could save $1 billion annually within five years. If current trends continue, 75 percent of Texas adults might be overweight or obese by the year 2040, and the cost to our state could quadruple from $10.5 billion to $39 billion.

The good news is that much of chronic disease is preventable or reversible, and the results are impressive: getting just one smoker to kick the habit saves approximately $1,620 in annual medical costs; encouraging one overweight or obese person to become physically active can save nearly $500.

As the Milken study shows, the cost of care is only part of the picture. Living with illness also impacts patients’ quality of life. There’s also a cost to employers beyond health insurance premiums: lost productivity, absence and disability. Healthy employees not only cost less in terms of medical care, they also work more days and are more productive.

Last year CIGNA commissioned a survey that showed 61 percent of U.S. workers said they came to work while coping with illness, stress or some other distraction. Among this group, 62 percent said they were less productive on those days and too distracted to do their best work. Employee health and well-being affects the health of companies, which makes employers an important stakeholder in improving health.

Traditionally, employers have financed health care coverage through benefits programs. Now, in addition, many are taking a more active role in promoting the health of employees and their families. More companies are creating a culture of wellness that encourages healthy lifestyles through physical activity, weight management, healthy eating and other programs. While approaches may differ, the question surrounding wellness programs is now about how to design and implement them, not whether to create one.

More than 160 million Americans have access to health care insurance through their employer; and through their health plan millions now have access to prevention and wellness services not available to them elsewhere. Many employers already pay 100 percent for immunizations and cancer screenings.

We’re encouraged by these trends. As Congress works toward the vital goal of covering all Americans, we should put “health” back at the center of the health care system by ensuring that innovative wellness and prevention strategies already working in the private sector have a central a role in health care reform.

Hanway is CEO of CIGNA, a global health service company.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: