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Thought Leader Live Healthy, Atlanta!

Preventing Childhood Obesity

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By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure.” Benjamin Franklin is famous for many sayings. Today, this one feels prescient.

In Georgia, we spend 2.4 billion dollars on obesity related care. It’s a small but sizable portion of the additional 190 billion spent nationally every year on obesity related health problems. Americans use an extra billion gallons of gasolines as vehicles are weighted down by their extra-heavy passengers. It is estimated that obesity absenteeism at work costs employers 6.4 billion dollars a year.

Obesity costs are higher than costs associated with second-hand smoke, and the obese cost more to insure than smokers do. Everyone has a higher premium to cover rising costs. I could go on for a week reporting statistics that shock and awe. But let’s not get pessimistic! Obesity is a crisis in this nation, and efforts to curb and then stop it have just begun.

To really make a difference, we must emphasize prevention over treating the problem after it exists. As Linda says in the video, doctors aren’t paid very much for preventative services, like talking to their patients about nutrition, exercise and the consequences of obesity. Instead, we operate on a “fee for service” basis that pays doctors for performing services and ordering tests.

The emphasis on ordering tests is changing. The Affordable Care Act mandates that preventative care is available without copays, including diet counseling for adults at higher risk of chronic disease and obesity screening and counseling for all adults. Organizations like Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are working to train physicians to talk to children and their parents about better health. Obese individuals who do not participate in wellness programs will begin to pay 30 to 50% more in premiums (like smokers do already) as the Affordable Care Act’s provisions continue to go into effect.

This is the beginning of increased attention and efforts to curb and eventually stop obesity. As the economic and personal cost rises in our society, I hope we’ll all see the wisdom in “an ounce of prevention.”

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