Worrying numbers from a government conference in Washington DC this week:
Obese Americans — those who are 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight — cost the country an estimated $147 billion in weight-related medical bills in 2008, double what it was a decade ago, a new study shows.
Overall, an obese patient has $4,871 in medical bills a year compared with $3,442 for a patient at a healthy weight.
The Center for Disease Control and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are sharing alarming findings with elected and appointed public policy makers as well as federal, state and local public health leaders in a 3 day conference dedicated to obesity prevention.
What you need to know:
The percentage of obese adults in the US grew from 15% in 1980 to 34% in 2006 (more than double).
About 34% of adults — more than 72 million — in the USA were obese in 2006, up from 23% in 1994, according to government data. Two-thirds of people in this county are overweight or obese. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, several types of cancer and other diseases.
Clearly, something is broken with the system that feeds us.
What does this have to do with President Obama’s health care reform, all over the news these days?
The reform is an important overhaul no doubt. With costs soaring, and health care becoming a luxury instead of a basic right for many Americans, there are many corrections required.
One of the ways to improve health care is through prevention. For example, preventing obesity.
This means stepping up to the collective plate and taking some radical steps:
For one, aligning the price of junk food with its real cost. Not the cost at the cash register, but the cost 20 years down the line at the hospital. (If you are thinking Soda Tax, this is just one option. Another is eliminating silly subsidies for corn that have flooded the market with high fructose corn syrup, and extra fat livestock).
Another measure is substantially restricting junk food advertising to children.
Lastly, the government can mandate clear, easy to understand food labels. Today’s labels are confusing. They allow manufacturers to obfuscate the true nutritional quality of a processed food item through flimsy health claims and marketing hype.
What to do at the supermarket:
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the government to help you. While you can certainly have your voice heard by writing to your state and federal representatives, a much more effective tool is to vote with your pocketbook.
Vote at the supermarket by choosing unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy and meat, and whole grains.
Vote by limiting your spending on junk foods.
Vote by cutting your spending on soft drinks to zero.
You’ll not only improve your health almost immediately, you’ll save yourself $1400 per year in health care costs down the road.
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