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Sep 2015

Obesity: A Tremendous Weight on the American Health Care System

There has been extensive media coverage on the severe health risks associated with obesity, but there is even more to the story — its crippling effect on the cost of health care in America!

Let’s keep it simple and look at some statistics:

  • More than a third of adults and about 17 percent of youths are obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in February 2014.
  • Many peer-reviewed studies have identified obesity as a high-risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. For example, a study published in 2000 concluded size definitely matters in the relationship between obesity and diabetes: “Relative to overweight people with stable weight, each kilogram of weight gained annually over 10 years was associated with a 49 percent increase in risk of developing diabetes in the subsequent 10 years.” Other obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke and several types of cancer, according to the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.
  • The aggregate national costs of obesity per year may be as high as $190 billion (20.6 percent of U.S. national health expenditures), according to research by John Cawley and Chad Meyerhoefer published in the Journal of Health Economics.
  • In 2010, 86 percent of health care spending was for people with one or more chronic medical conditions, the CDC reported. The majority of these conditions are brought about by lack of exercise, poor diet, stress, smoking and alcohol consumption. If we are able to address the issues that lead to obesity such as lifestyle choices, we stand a better chance of paying less for health care.

So what can be done?

  • Public service announcements. Some experts believe public service announcements and high-shock-value communication techniques need to be deployed as soon as possible to help reduce obesity and its related conditions.
  • Education in the community. There is also a need for community coalitions to promote healthier lifestyles. Educating our children on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle is crucial for preventing obesity in future generations. Healthy children make healthy adults, which make a healthy society with lowered health care costs for all.
  • Healthier workplaces. Here at SAC, we understand the impact obesity can have in the community and workplace, which is why we offer our employees ongoing health education and health screenings, and even personal training and fitness challenges through our partnership with Proactive Health Labs, a leader in the health and wellness industry. We recommend other companies utilize their resources and find ways to do the same, not only to save on health care costs but to help shape America’s future for the better.


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