$ The High Cost of Obesity $

A couple of GMVH staff penned the below article to educate the community and medical providers.  Randy Johnson, Physical Therapist and Lead Clinician at our Warsaw Rehab Facility, and Russ Christensen, Speech Pathologist, prepared some great information that I thought I’d share.  If you’d like references for the information please feel free to contact Randy or Russ.


A quick review of health literature reveals a disturbing shift from active to sedentary lifestyle.  According to a 2008 National Health Survey, 36% of adults in the United States are sedentary or remain inactive with little or no exercise for most of the day.   An amazing 50% never participate in vigorous physical activity lasting more than 10 minutes per week. (1)  From 1971 to date, obesity rates in the United States have increased from 14.5% to 34% and almost 65% are either obese or overweight. (1)

Poor dietary choice coupled with lack of physical activity kills more people than cancer and is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths worldwide. (2) The undeniable link is obesity and its deleterious impact on metabolic, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal function.  Manifestation of disease, inflammation, pain, anxiety and depression are all well documented and authorities view the occurrence as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century. (3) 

Rising health care costs result from chronic preventable diseases linked to obesity.  There exists a growing body of evidence of obesity’s impact on medical costs. It’s a fact that obese individuals incur higher healthcare costs at a given point in time and we are realizing that those costs must be offset.  Imposing higher carrier premiums is one method of remediating that problem.  We are currently experiencing that demonstrated in our own organization and we see similar changes being faced by friends and family in our communities and across the country.  Obesity has become an epidemic, hurting peoples’ health and costing as much as $147 billion each year and makes up 9.1% of medical spending in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (4)

As a nation, we’re taking steps to get healthier. First Lady Michelle Obama is raising awareness of childhood obesity through her campaign “Let’s Move.”  In 2010 the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that clinicians screen children aged 6 years and older for obesity and offer or refer them to intensive weight loss programs.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law last March, comes with important new benefits. This Act will help more children get health coverage, end lifetime and most annual limits on care, and give patients access to free, recommended preventive services. The act now requires private insurance plans to provide obesity screening for all adults and children at no cost. Height, weight and body-mass index (BMI) measurements for children also are covered as a preventive service.

Beginning in January 2011, patients covered by Medicare and patients enrolled in new health plans created by the law will receive more preventive services. This includes counseling on losing weight and healthy eating habits.

Alarmingly there is no evidence to suggest that Americans (as a whole) have become more physically active over the past decade and widespread availability of nutritional guidelines has done little to address the problems of overeating and poor dietary choice.  Education appears to be our last front in a war against obesity, its’ economic impact on our country and the economic burden that is being imposed on payers. 

As payers focus more and more of their resources on prevention of illness and disease, it is incumbent on, us as healthcare professionals and as a healthcare and wellness organizatin, to provide agressive leadership (in our respective communities) regarding integrated programming for education about, and the prevention of obesity.

Randy Johnson / Russ Christensen

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Executive Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. At GVMH we care for our families, friends and neighbors. We're committed to providing the safest, friendliest and most compassionate care to all we serve.
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