The Cost of Being an Obese Nation

A new study came out this week which is both frightening and encouraging at the same time.  Trust for America’s Health & the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published a report projecting America’s waistlines to continue to bulge at an alarming rate.   It is projected that by 2030, 42% of adults will be obese.  Not just overweight, but OBESE!!  Mississippi is already at 34.9%. 

And naturally, healthcare costs will rise along with obesity.  The American Journal of Preventative Medicine concluded $550 billion will be spent in healthcare costs between now and 2030 as a result of rising obesity rates.  That’s a lot of money, a lot of tax dollars.  Currently it is estimated the yearly medical cost to treat adult obesity is somewhere between $147 billion and $210 billion.  That is just to treat adult obesity, not child or teen obesity.  Statistics like that are a good reminder that although lettuce and fresh produce may be more expensive than lean cuisines or spaghetti-os, in the long run, they really are cheaper in the long run. (I have to remind myself of that often when I shop because veggies can be so pricy!!)

It’s hard to know how to be healthy.  We live in a society that constantly feeds us clashing messages.  Down the I-15 corridor there are back to back billboards that advertise trading the game controller for outdoor physical activities, and purchasing Mike and Ike’s candy.   Our brains must be overloaded with all the new health studies, diet tricks, products to avoid, super human foods, and ideas at how best to exercise our body type. 

Being healthy has gone from a no brainer (baby boomer generation), to a confusing pool of contradicting information (generation y).   Doctors and health care professionals further promulgate this problem by offering pills and quick fixes instead of solid, well grounded advice.    It is dog eat dog industry out there, and we Americans are in the middle of it, anxiously waiting for someone to tell us how to really be healthy.

Well I don’t think the industry will ever relent; I don’t think doctors will ever agree on a correct way to be healthy.  But people and organizations are really starting to jump on the health train.  Michelle Obama for example, has had a great impact in bringing awareness to proper nutrition and physical exercise.  Food Network star Jamie Oliver has brought a lot of attention to the unhealthiness of school lunches. 

As a result of this increased attention on nutrition/health, things are beginning to improve.  Schools offer healthier choices while eliminating less healthy choices.  Sugary drinks and vending machines have been taken out of certain school districts in California.  Insurance companies offer incentives for healthy lifestyle choices.  Philadelphia public schools have increased physical activity levels in school, offer healthier meals, including breakfast to its students. As a result, its obesity rate has started to decline.  Philadelphia also allows food stamps to be used at local farmers markets, giving more healthy choices to lower income individuals.  There are

Philadelphia lunch lady shows off some of their healthy lunch options.

so many creative, and easy ways to promote health. It is to exciting to see what people come up with!

So perhaps being healthy is a matter of health as well as fiscal responsibility.   I HOPE we’re right around the corner from government issued incentives to healthy Americans.   If I got a tax break for exercising, I can tell you one thing, I’d take it!!!!!  Or even better: if I got to use the HOV lane for eating all my veggies, or got to use a fast track lane at the DMV for not drinking soda… Ahhhhhh I’m starting to day dream.

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