Monday, June 13, 2011

The Wellness Platform

We’re moving toward an election year and speculation as to the candidates, their issues and the platforms on which they will run is rampant. At the same time, our society is approaching critical mass—literally. Wouldn’t it be great if someone actually ran on the “Wellness Platform?” Here’s what might happen . . . here’s why it’s important . . .


  • 27 percent of all Americans age 17 to 24 are too overweight to join the military (that’s around 9 million young adults).
  • Each year 1,200 first-time enlistees are released before their contracts are up because of weight problems—the replacement costs—$50,000 per person, or about $60 million per year.
  • The Department of Defense spends more than $1.1 billion annually for medical care associated with excess weight and obesity in the military. The tab for military work-related absenteeism and presenteeism is more than $105 million. (American Journal of Health Promotion)

Health Care

  • 27 percent of all Americans age 17 to 24 are too overweight to join the military (that’s around 9 million young adults).
  • Obesity will add nearly $344 billion to our annual health care costs by 2018 (just seven years from now) and account for more than 21 percent of total health care spending. (American Public Health Association)
  • Today, obesity costs the health care system about $147 billion a year. To put that figure in perspective, the American Cancer Society estimates that all cancers combined cost our health care system $93 billion a year. So ending obesity would save the health care system fifty percent more dollars than curing cancer. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • An unhealthy lifestyle is the primary factor in the six leading causes of death in the United States – heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory diseases, accidents, and diabetes – which collectively account for over 70 percent of all deaths.
  • 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.
  • For Medicare, 96 cents of every dollar is spent on chronic disease care and treatment, and for Medicaid, the cost is 83 cents on the dollar. (Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease)
  • Medicare spends between $1,400 to $6,000 more per year on obese seniors than non-obese seniors, for obesity-related ailments such as diabetes and knee problems. (Trust for America’s Health)

Our Communities

  • According to its 2009 studies of 187 U.S. metro areas, Gallup – Healthways Well-Being Index data estimates that the direct costs associated with obesity and related chronic conditions are about $50 million per 100,000 residents annually. Pick a place . . . In Washington, DC alone these costs equate to $300 million. (Gallup Management Journal)


  • Obesity among full-time workers costs $73.1 billion per year. That's the equivalent of hiring 1.8 million new workers at annual salaries of $42,000.
  • The average cost of employee absence is the equivalent of 35 percent of base payroll. (Survey on the Total Financial Impact of Employee Absences, Mercer, 2010)
  • A 2010 report by the American Lung Association estimates that the costs of healthcare, premature death and loss of productivity due to smoking comes to about $301 billion per year. 23 percent of American adults smoke.
  • Obesity-related sick days cost employers $4.3 billion a year in 2004 dollars. That’s about 9 percent of the total cost to employers of all sick days. (Cornell University, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine)
  • More than 50 percent of corporate profits now go toward health care costs, versus only 7 percent 30 years ago. (American Institute for Preventive Medicine)
  • Reducing just one health risk in the workplace increases productivity by 9 percent. Reducing one health risk decreases absenteeism by 2 percent. (American Heart Association)

These aren’t all the health and wellness-related statistics, concerns or problems we face—but look at what just the few points presented here cost us all in terms of unemployment, health care, defense and the viability of our communities and cities.

So, how about that wellness platform?

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