How about a Surplus Reduction Campaign?

How about a Surplus Reduction Campaign?

11.30.11 | By Karl Uhlendorf

Lately, I've gained a bit of weight. In fact, according to the official definitions of "overweight" and "obese," which factor weight and height to determine body mass index (or BMI), I'm teetering between the two categories. For a guy who's always been fairly active, and who sees himself as a decent middle-aged athlete, it's somewhat demoralizing.

My excuses are plenty - two boys under four, nagging knee problems, prolonged deficit reduction discussions - but at the end of the day, it comes down to motivation and priorities. And practicing what I preach.

I often look incredulously at people in the healthcare sector who smoke. Seriously? Apparently they haven't seen the black lung at the Bodies Exhibition. But how hypocritical is this when one considers the risks inherent in being overweight or obese?

According to NIH, overweight and obesity are risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, among other health problems - a veritable "who's who" list of some of the more prevalent and problematic chronic diseases we face today.

In recent years, we've made important and impressive strides against some of these conditions.

Heart attack deaths and heart failure fell by 45% from 1999-2005. A 2007 study in Health Affairs found that use of blood pressure medicines prevented 86,000 premature deaths from cardiovascular disease in 2001 and 833,000 hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke in 2002. If all untreated patients received recommended care, an additional 89,000 deaths and 420,000 hospitalizations could be prevented annually. For more examples of recent medical progress against chronic diseases, check out this page on our website.

Yes, medicines have played a key role in these successes, and future advances hold great promise for finding new ways of preventing and managing disease. However, it's widely accepted that behavioral interventions, lifestyle adjustments and plain old personal responsibility are critical if we, both individually and collectively, are to realize further gains.

This is particularly true for obesity - a condition that impacts children and adults alike. Here are a few sobering stats, courtesy of CDC:

  • 33.8% of adults are obese
  • about 17% (or 12.5 million) of children are obese
  • 12 states have an obesity prevalence exceeding 30%
  • in 2008, obesity-related medical costs were an estimated $147 billion.

But late yesterday, I read some hopeful news that suggests another promising step in the right direction.

In case you missed it, CMS announced that Medicare will be providing free coverage of preventive services to reduce obesity.

This will include "screening for obesity and counseling for eligible beneficiaries by primary care providers in settings such as physicians' offices," according to the agency's release. For beneficiaries who screen positively for obesity, they will be eligible for weekly and monthly face-to-face counseling visits.

It's programs like these - coupled with community-based efforts, walkathons, bike-athons, skateboard-athons and future medical advances - that could help tip the scale on the obesity epidemic (sorry, bad pun).

For me, I'm fortunate enough to have good health insurance, a supportive employer that encourages physical activity and a decent metabolism. I'm not big on resolutions, but I owe it to myself - and my family - to not be a hypocrite, to eat in moderation and to get my tail moving a bit more.

After all, better to bypass the cookies today than the coronary arteries a few years from now, right?

Endnote: I'll be looking for new and different opportunities to further muse on prevention and chronic disease in The Catalyst. We welcome your thoughts and insights.

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