Sunday, November 28, 2010
The Cost of Obesity
The Cost Of Obesity Can Be Measured Not Just In Dollars, But Also In Our Nation's Priorities And Well-Being
A new study finds that obesity costs the US about $168 billion annually, or about 17 percent of all healthcare costs.
The new research suggests that the nation's weight problem may be having close to twice the impact on medical spending as previously estimated.
So, aside from the human toll — poorer health, more disease, diminished physical ability — we now have a dollar value for America's obesity crisis.
And it is indeed a crisis. More than two-thirds (68%) of American adults are overweight or obese, and more than a third (34%) are obese.
Obesity goes hand-in-hand with a variety of diseases including: Type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, stroke, hypertension, fatty liver disease, gallbladder disease and more.
In fact, the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension have now reached crisis or epidemic levels, and obesity is the primary contributing factor.
According to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), "soaring obesity rates make the US the fattest country in the OECD."
The OECD is comprised by 33 industrial, or developed, nations. These are the nations with the highest standards of living and the greatest abundance of food. Simply put, this means that the US is the fattest nation in the world!
Most alarmingly, the problem of obesity in the US is not limited to adults: America also has the highest rate of child obesity among developed nations.
Obesity rates among children have tripled in the last three decades, and one in three children are now obese. Perhaps most alarmingly, one-third of all children born after 2000 will suffer from diabetes.
The reason for all of this seems fairly simple; American kids have unhealthy diets consisting largely of high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar foods, and they are also plagued by inactivity. Children are less active today than at any other time in American history, spending 7.5 hours a day watching TV, playing video games or simply involved in efforts that don't require movement.
The problem is so bad that it's gotten the attention of our military leadership. Recruiters are finding it increasingly difficult to find recruits who are healthy enough and fit enough to qualify for military service.
A study released in April by 'Mission: Readiness', a nonprofit group of more than 150 retired generals and admirals, concluded that 27 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are too fat to join the military.
The study blames the poor diets of young Americans and their sedentary lifestyles.
"Today, otherwise excellent recruiting prospects, some of them with generations of sterling military service in their family history, are being turned away because they are just too overweight," read the study. "Our standards are high because we clearly cannot have people in our command who are not up to the job. Too many lives depend on it."
In testimony before Congress, the former head of the California Army National Guard, retired U.S. Army Major Gen. Paul Monroe, said that "80 percent of children who were overweight between the ages of 10 to 15 were obese by age 25."
Monroe went on to tell Congress, "In the past, retired admirals and generals have stood up to make it clear that America is only as healthy as our nation's children. Childhood obesity is now undermining our national security and we need to start turning it around today."
He and other military leaders want Congress to enact a massive child nutrition bill to remove all junk food and high-calorie beverages from schools, improve nutrition standards in schools, upgrade school menus and, the group said, "Help develop new school-based strategies, based on research, that help parents and children adopt healthier lifelong eating and exercise habits."
Ultimately, fat kids grow into fatter adults. Our nation's poor diet and sedentary behavior are both detrimental and destructive. It leads to diminished quality of life, shorter life spans and massive medical costs that the nation simply cannot afford.
Instead of directing our money toward treating unpreventable diseases, we spend far too much of it treating preventable and obesity-related diseases. This is wasteful. It is not money well-spent.
A nation that disregards its health and well-being to such an extent is not a well nation in any sense.
Our nation's obesity rate and all of its burdensome costs are signs of a very unhealthy, over-indulged nation — a nation in decline.