It’s Independence Day, and your country is counting on you. We've got a big problem and it's only getting bigger. America's fighting a "Battle of the Bulge" and right now, we're losing the fight. This is one battle we simply can't afford to lose. We can't afford it individually, our employers can't afford it, and our country can't afford it. And, we’re running out of time. Health care reform is on everyone’s agenda, but we don’t yet know what form it will ultimately take. In the meantime . . .
Each one of us pays an additional $175 annually through Medicare and Medicaid to cover obesity-related illnesses. The epidemic of obesity is costing us all in less obvious ways as well. According to analysis by researchers at Cornell University, the extra poundage packed on by the average American in the last decade required airplanes to use an extra 350 million gallons of fuel at a cost of more than $275 million a year (and that figure is based on prices in 2000 when jet fuel was 79 cents a gallon). On a more personal level, an overweight family may lose 10 percent of every gallon of gas they buy, and at today’s prices that adds up fast. If we want to be "green" we've got to get lean.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says obesity has roughly the same association with chronic health conditions as 20 years of aging. It contributes to 53 diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some types of cancer. Almost one-half of all Americans report having a chronic illness—and those illnesses account for 75 percent of our national spending on health care (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Furthermore, almost 80 percent of all chronic disease is caused by three preventable health behaviors—physical inactivity, poor nutrition and overeating, and smoking.
How about this? What if this Independence Day we declare our independence from junk and fast food? What if we look for healthy substitutions? What if we work in a little more physical activity? What if we make just one modest yet meaningful change in our nutritional behaviors? If we as a nation of individuals can each make the effort to independently create a positive change for ourselves, we will collectively do great things for our country—and our own long-term health and wellness. “We the people” can take control of our wellness behaviors—and outcomes. “We the people” can become the solution rather than part of the problem. We are all stakeholders in this effort, and together we can turn the epidemic of overweight, obesity, and inactivity around and reduce our risk factors for preventable chronic illnesses. Yes, it's a mouthful, but something well-worth chewing on.