The most important health care challenge in the United States is the dramatic increase in overweight and obesity. Two out of three American adults are now overweight or obese. Also, one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. If you take a look at demographics you will find that those living in rural areas and certain ethnic minorities carry a very high rate of obesity. In addition, the lower the income and the lower the education levels achieved the higher the rate. The health risks associated with overweight and obesity are enormous. Such conditions as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma liver disease and cardiovascular disease, to name just a few.
It follows, therefore, the increase in obesity rates and the increase in health care costs go hand in hand. In addition, if this trend in not reversed the costs will continue to escalate. Specially, obese people incur as much as 100 percent higher costs when it comes to medical costs which, of course, will increase all of our health care costs. A very high percentage of these medical costs are borne by medicaid and medicare.It is therefore critical to begin to control and reduce obesity in adults and young people if we are going to begin to contain health care costs. A recent report in the American Medical Association Journal estimates that one third of all children in the United States today will develop type II diabetes.
It is therefore important to refocus our efforts in the prevention of obesity. This will help contain costs and at the same time reduce the incidence of some of the above mentioned conditions for our children and adults. The prevention model will require an adjustment in behavior which will include a significant increase in exercise and improved diet. Programs will need to be developed both in school and at home. Adults will need to set a good example for their children and schools will need to also take an active part in promoting good diet and exercise. It is the view of this author that the President and Congress will need to emphasize the importance of these programs which will go a long way in reversing these dangerous trends.