By Fredrica Syren:
Never has there been so much discussion about the cost of health care as in recent years. Yes, I agree it’s getting very expensive to be sick and have health insurance. Even living in Sweden, where health care is pretty much free, it’s getting expensive. Here you’re talking about a mom of three kids so, yes, I spend a fair amount of money on health care. It’s no wonder that health care is getting pricey because we’re getting sicker. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are on the rise and, unfortunately, obesity is the reason for many of these problems.
Today more than 1/3 of all men in the U.S. are obese; and obesity related illnesses such as cancer, hearth disease, stroke and osteoarthritis are also on the rise because of it. In a country like the U.S., despite the abundance of beautiful vegetables and fruits, the general public are not avid plant-based food eaters and have an obesity epidemic. Sadly, obesity in America is costing $190 billion annually in national healthcare, all because the obesity rate has risen a full 34% since 1960. The cost is mainly for treating obesity, not so much for preventing in it.
In Europe 1 in 13 deaths are attributed to obesity today, The U.K., for example, estimates that the cost of treating obesity will reach £27 billion by 2015. Obesity is clearly a global epidemic.
Childhood obesity has also increased substantially over the past three decades. The numbers are scary: approximately 17% of children and adolescents (aged 2 to 19) in the U.S. are obese. Childhood obesity is a huge financial burden for the government and taxpayers. In 2008, about $14.1 billion was spent to treat children with obesity related issues in the U.S. alone. This cost will just keep on growing as the child does because children who are obese or overweight tend to end up with serious health consequences such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, and osteoarthritis.
So how do we stop this epidemic? Prevention is the only real answer, and it has to happen now. We no longer can hide behind a rock and blame fast-food restaurants, media and or genes. The change has to come from everyone: governments and schools, businesses and nonprofit organizations, neighborhoods and communities, individuals and families. The fact is that we need to teach children in particular about healthy habits, and it begins with eating fewer processed foods, and more fruits and vegetables.
According to research done by the Harvard School of Public Health, these are the areas that need to be worked on:
- Limiting unhealthy foods (refined grains and sweets, potatoes, red meat, processed meat) and beverages (sugary drinks)
- Increasing physical activity
- Limiting television time, screen time, and other “sit time”
- Improving sleep
- Reducing stress
The silver lining of fighting obesity is that we would get back to basics: eating a healthy diet, living a healthy life; and taking personal responsibility for the care of oneself, friends and family. Together we can fight this, but we need to start TODAY.