The obesity epidemic the U.S. is facing should be one of the primary concerns of the future president of the United States.
“This issue that is plaguing our nation should not be delegated to the second, third, or fourth in charge, but should actively involve the president themselves. Some presidential candidates are saying their spouses would be interested in promoting the health of this nation, insinuating that fighting the obesity epidemic would not be their concern” Samir Becic said. I’m strongly opposing this notion and this is my reasoning why:
“We are one of the most obese countries in the world, and statistics are showing that by 2020 over 75 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese. We must change this and to do this we need more than just policy and jargon – we need a leader, a president who knows the real issues concerning the health of America”.- Samir Becic
Obesity Rates Spike in America
An analysis conducted by the National Heart Forum found that by 2030, 1 in 2 people will be obese – not merely overweight, but obese. Considering 60 to 70 percent of all chronic illnesses can be linked to obesity, this is more than just a national problem. According to Trust for America’s Health, twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent. Today, there are 41 states with an obesity rating above 25 percent. And since 1980, the rate of obesity in children and adolescents has nearly tripled.
Obesity a Big Factor in Healthcare Costs
Healthcare and healthcare reform are big issues in politics. The magic solution to these issues, however, is not rooted in subsidies, single-payer systems or the actual affordability of healthcare unique to every American – it’s in the individual health of Americans themselves. Ideally, the healthier you are or aim to be, the less you have to worry about chronic illnesses and injury, and by extension, the less you have to worry about healthcare costs.
Given the state of American health and the economy, obesity has taken more than a few dollars from Americans. Regarding health care costs, for every dollar spent on healthcare, $0.95 is spent on treatment; the other $0.05 is spent on preventative care. While that may not sound like much, in total, obesity-related medical treatment can cost up to $210 billion a year. Researchers estimate that if obesity trends continue, obesity-related medical costs could rise by up to $66 billion each year.
Comparatively, obese people spend 42 percent more on healthcare costs than those of healthy-weight. In fine numbers, per capita medical spending is about $2,741 higher for the obese than healthy-weight individuals.
Corporations Spend More Due to Obesity-Related Medical Concerns
Along with monetary concerns, obesity has played an active role in decreasing American employee productivity, discipline, focus, energy and even creativity. Corporations who provide benefits to their employees with healthcare take a big hit as well.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the current annual impact of poor health costs Americans about $1.8 trillion. This number is a sum of costs concerning obesity-related job absenteeism ($4.3 billion annually) and various forms of medical care among other things, which is almost no surprise given than 80 percent of Americans work in jobs that require little or no physical activity.
All is not lost when it comes to healthcare reform, however. Statistics show for every dollar spent on wellness initiatives, corporations can save as high as $10 in costs amounting to obesity-related medical concerns in the private sector. In fact, medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs – great news for the employee.
Perks go to the employer as well, as companies with wellness programs in place have an average 28 percent reduced sick leave and spend 26 percent less on healthcare costs. Additionally, the money corporations save as a result of implementing wellness programs could be used for improving the quality of the workplace, adding more employee benefits, or even increasing employee wages.
Childhood Obesity a Contributing Factor in Inhibiting Education Success
For children, obesity can play a vital role in that child’s academic success. Studies found that obese students – and especially girls – tend to have lower test scores than their slimmer peers, are more likely to be held back a grade and are less likely to go on to college.
The latest such study, published in the journal Child Development, followed 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that, on average, those who were obese scored lower on math tests than non-obese children.
Additionally, studies found that physically fit children had a 2.4 times greater chance of passing math tests and a 2.2 times greater chance of passing reading tests compared with aerobically unfit children.
According to a study in 2010 by the University of Pittsburgh, overweight people had four percent less brain tissue than people of normal weight, and obese people had eight percent less brain tissue than people of normal weight. These results are serious for children who are obese as a lack of brain tissue can result in a lower IQ, decreased attention span, impairment of memory functions and poor coordination.
In terms of costs, of the approximate $210 billion Americans spend on medical care due to obesity-related illnesses, childhood obesity alone is responsible for $14.1 billion in direct costs.
Annually, the average total health expenses for a child treated for obesity under Medicaid is $6,730, while the average health cost for all children covered by Medicaid is only $2,446.
Homeland Security at Risk Due to Rise in Obesity
While the United States continues to lead the world in military spending, the U.S. can’t deny how the rise in obesity has become a significant concern for national security. In fact, a 2010 report by mission readiness found that obesity is the leading medical reason why applicants fail to qualify for military serve – and no wonder, with 27 percent of Americans ages 17-24 – that is, 9 million young adults – cannot serve due to their weight.
The last time military leaders were active in the health young adults and its effect on the future of the U.S. military was during World War II, following the Great Depression.
Needless to say, this is a problem. Obesity does not affect us merely the obese with medical problems, but the entire country as well. We would do well to take care of this epidemic as we would any other – to inspire many to partake in regular physical activity and be conscious of their nutrition intake. Little steps we can take like drinking more water or going for a walk 20 around the neighborhood 20 minutes a day are significant lifestyle changes that can lead to a healthier, more enjoyable life.
Read: Why is America So Fat?