Obesity, Diabetes, and Healthcare reform The need to improve the health of Americans through the creation of medically based fitness programs
by Chris Lopez, MSPT, OCS, CSCS
Healthcare reform (i.e., Obamacare) efforts have had two goals in mind: improve the quality of healthcare in the US and spend less money doing it. Politicians and healthcare experts have debated, decided, and ultimately implemented major overhauls to the healthcare system in our country. While we all agree that the system of healthcare delivery in the US has been completely altered, many, myself included, doubt that the changes implemented thus far will achieve either improved quality or decreased spending.
Inevitably, the failure of reform efforts will be due to a lack of political will and common sense. One of the gravest common sense omissions to reform has been a reluctance to admit, with adequate publicity, our county’s greatest problem: we’re not healthy. 50% of all healthcare spending goes towards 5% of the population. Putting aside genetic conditions, the epidemics of obesity and diabetes, have contributed greatly to this decline in health and increase in overall healthcare spending.
According to the CDC, 69% of adult Americans are currently either overweight or Obese. The problem includes children as well, as 24% of New York City children, ages five to ten are obese (16% ages 2-5). Obesity contributes significantly towards increased incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers. Obesity is the leading cause of preventible death in the US, causing an estimated 200,000 preventable deaths annually. In 2007, it was estimated that $147 billion was spent on obesity-related medical expenditures.
Once this admission regarding the poor health of our society is made, then the next question becomes: what can be done about it? Obesity is generally related to poor diet and an inadequate amount of daily physical activity. Unfortunately, even when an individual becomes aware of the fact that they need to lose weight and improve their health, either through their own realization or the warnings of their physician, they don’t typically know what to do or where to turn. Further complicating matters is the very real likelihood that they may have medical considerations (i.e., high blood pressure, uncontrolled blood sugar, musculo-skelatal issues, etc.), which need to be taken into account when starting on a new diet, beginning exercise, or otherwise making new lifestyle decisions. Where can they turn for such guidance, their local gym, a friend, the internet, a magazine?
Until now, there has been little to offer such an individual. Oftentimes, this has meant that, lacking adequate support and direction, they simply gave up before they ever began. At other times, the more ambitious have embarked on making changes without an appropriate plan, hurting themselves (or worse) in the process. Physical Solutions has created a Medically Based Fitness program, which is intended to monitor more closely individuals suffering with the medical complications associated with obesity and diabetes. Following a thorough health screening, fitness programs are designed specifically to take into account a members current health status and fitness goals. Communication is also established with the member’s general practice physician, to ensure member safety is always maintained throughout the program. Members are reassessed at regular intervals to measure progress and ensure program appropriateness. Member education is also a key component to successfully altering lifestyles to promote better health. In addition to participating in fitness programs, members are strongly encouraged to attend our Knowledge is Power seminars, which include educational presentations from nutritionist, physicians, physical therapists, and personal trainers.
It has been estimated that lowering the body mass index (BMI) of Americans by 5% could save over $600 billion over the next 20 years. At Physical Solutions, we are trying to do our part within our small communities to help achieve this goal, and hope that this type of program could be spread out to other communities across the United States. We remain dedicated to improving the health of our clientele, enhancing their quality of life, and minimize the complications and costs associated with being unhealthy. Unlike the political process of reform, which has seldom seemed to make much sense, we feel that this program makes sense in a very simple way. As similar programs grow, they will likely contribute to more overall improvements in the healthcare sector and society in general then all other reform measures combined.