While it seems like everyone is talking about obesity (and childhood obesity), and what it’s costing us, would you believe that it’s nowhere near our top policy priorities for 2011? In fact, it’s just about dead last (right below global warming). The Pew Research Center found only 19 percent of us rate addressing obesity a top priority.
And, until we address this issue on a national level, we will never succeed in containing health care costs (or balancing the budget).
In 2010 the U.S. spent approximately $168 billion on obesity-related costs. To put that figure in perspective, look at what some of the larger departments in the federal government spent: $26.3 billion (Dept. of Energy), $51.7 billion (Dept. of Education), $72 billion (Dept. of Transportation), $26 billion (Dept. of Agriculture), $51.7 billion (Dept. of State) and $23.9 billion (Dept. of Justice).
$168 billion is a big bill to pay—and it’s going to get bigger still. It’s estimated by 2018 (just seven years from now) obesity will cost us $344 billion in medical-related expenses, eating up 21 percent of all health-care spending. (2010 America’s Health Rankings Report)
Even though we see almost daily reports linking obesity to a number of chronic diseases (more than 53), type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and too many more to list, there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to how obesity fits into our out-of-control health care costs.
Do we tend to look at it only as a personal responsibility issue that we can’t really do anything about? Is the problem just too overwhelming? Is it just that we think we lack an effective solution so we continue to return to the drawing board for yet another study? Enough.
There are a number of effective solutions in place already, ours being one of them. We continue to build momentum with workplace initiatives and program participants. And, we continue to prove that people want to be well. Most of us would rather be part of the solution than part of the problem. And, we’re not alone.
Given the choices, most of us would probably choose to live healthier, longer lives rather than face an earlier, and perhaps costly, unpleasant death. Wouldn’t we?