Tag Archives: obese

The Cost of Obesity

imagesHealth care has been a hot topic for several years now, from the rising costs of health care and the hard working citizens who can’t afford it to the lack of quality of health care in this country.  As our top brass sit atop Capitol Hill and try to determine YOUR destiny in regards to health care, the unfortunate joke in all of this is that we as citizens and humans for that matter have had control over our destiny since the day we were born.  Problem is, we’ve just decided not to, and as a result, the cost of health care is growing exponentially with our waistlines.

Most of us are already aware that carrying extra weight increases the risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer.  But consider some of these staggering statistics. If Americans continue to pack on pounds, obesity will cost the United States (you and me) about $344 billion in medical-related expenses by 2018, eating up about 21% of health-care spending. These calculations are based on the projection that in 10 years 43% of American adults may be obese, which is roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight, if obesity continues to rise at the current rate.

“Obesity is going to be a leading driver in rising health-care costs,” says Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of the department of health policy and management at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Thorpe did a special analysis on obesity for America’s Health Rankings, the 20th annual assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis. “There is a tsunami of chronic preventable disease about to be unleashed into our medical-care system which is increasingly unaffordable,” says Reed Tuckson of United Health Foundation, sponsor of the report with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.  Using weight data, census statistics, and medical expenditure information, Thorpe found:

•An obese person will have an average of $8,315 in medical bills a year in 2018 compared with $5,855 for an adult at a healthy weight. That’s a difference of $2,460.

•If the percentage of obese adults doesn’t change but stays at the current rate of 34%, then excess weight will cost the nation about $198 billion by 2018.

•If the obesity rate continues to rise until 2018, then Colorado may be the only state with less than 30% of residents who are obese.

•More than 50% of the population in several states could be obese by 2018.  These states are Oklahoma, Mississippi, Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio and South Dakota.

The report adds to the growing body of evidence of obesity’s impact on medical costs. A study released in July 2009 showed that obese Americans cost the country about $147 billion in weight-related medical bills in 2008, double what it was a decade ago. It now accounts for about 9.1% of medical spending. Overall, the United States spends about $1.8 trillion a year in medical costs associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and all three are linked to smoking and obesity, the nation’s two largest risk factors, according to the America’s Health Rankings report.

Smoking is still the number one preventable cause of death in the country, accounting for about 440,000 deaths annually, the report says.  About one in five Americans smoke. More than 3 million people quit smoking this past year. The percentage of people who smoke varies by state, from 9.3% in Utah to more than 25% in Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia, the study says.  “This report is an urgent call to take much more aggressive action to deal with key disease risk factors such as obesity and smoking,” Tuckson says. Health economist Eric Finkelstein, co-author of The Fattening of America, says medical costs won’t go down unless Americans make a serious effort “to slim down by improving their diet and exercise patterns.”

Diet and exercise; it always seems to come down to those two things.  So what will it take for the country to realize that before we self-destruct?  Perhaps the real weapons of mass destruction are literally right beneath our noses.

Featured in February 2010 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Health and Fitness: A Company’s BEST Investment

corporate-fitness11Mention investing and most people think you were going to talk to them about money. When it comes to investing in our health however, very few get excited about the prospect and the return on investment (ROI) seldom makes the headlines in The Wall Street Journal. As is apparent by the state of our national health, very few are making the investment.  So why should your company, or any company for that matter, invest in a health and wellness program for its employees?  Following are three big reasons why your company simply can’t afford not to.

Reason #1 – Obese workers cost employers more through both absenteeism and presenteeism.

A recent study conducted by Duke University found the following results after investigating eight years of data from 11,728 Duke employees.

  • Overweight workers are more injury prone than fit co-workers.  Furthermore, these injuries occur in the knees, neck, back, shoulders, arms, hips, and wrists, causing debilitating conditions that limit worker productivity (presenteeism) and dependability (absenteeism).
  • Overweight workers have higher health care costs than their fit co-workers due to the various obesity related illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, overuse injuries, etc.
  • Obese workers cost more in injury claims as they have twice the rate of worker’s compensation claims than their fit co-workers.
  • The most overweight workers had 13 times more lost workdays due to work related injury and their medical claims for those injuries were 7 times higher than that of their fit co-workers.
  • The lack of solution to the obesity epidemic in America which is flooding the workplace could also result in unwanted complaints of discrimination by obese workers.

Reason #2 – Behavior is the determining factor in the overall health and life expectancy of your employees.

According to the Institute for Health and Productivity Management (IHPM), health and longevity can be attributed to following factors: 40% is behavior, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, nutritional habits, MDD, etc. (MDD stands for movement deficit disorder.  Can you believe that?); 30% is genetics; 20% is environmental; 10% is health care delivery.  This sedentary lifestyle simply cripples the American workforce and right now it is crippling your company.  Though MDD may not be as deadly as cancer in the short term, it leads to a slow, steady decay of the human mind and body that leads to a host of diminishing health factors. That eventually leads people to their graves (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, degenerative muscles, and or joints, etc.)

The IHPM  reports that the focus on health care alone has failed and this is clearly supported by the percentages above as health care delivery is the least important factor to longevity.  It couldn’t be more obvious than ever.  Employers must seek to modify the behavior of their employees if they want to be a competitive force in today’s marketplace.

Reason #3 – Employee presenteeism is a harsh reality that costs employers money.

According to Sean Sullivan, the CEO of IHPM, companies have focused solely on absenteeism for far too long because it only affects the production worker.  In other words, with our advancements in technology, knowledge workers are usually able to complete their duties even if they are not at the work place.  This is something that can not be said for the production worker whose duties stem solely around their physical presence on a production line.

Sullivan claims  that though absenteeism is a part of the puzzle, presenteeism is the real concern when it comes to a company’s bottom line, for it captures the loss of employee functionality (and the resulting diminished productivity) while at work due to health issues.  In other words, your employees may actually be at work, but if there physical and mental health is diminishing then their quality and output of work is suffering.  Furthermore, because the knowledge worker depends solely on “brain power” vs. “physical ability”, the declining mental health so characteristic of presenteeism seriously hampers their activity.

Sullivan believes that instead of focusing on what is broken, companies must seek to prevent the breaking in the first place. Furthermore, due to the rapid aging of the American workforce with baby boomers aging into retirement with chronic health issues, we can not afford our current health care system.  He describes the baby boomers leaving the workplace (75 million people) with the birth-death generation behind them (45 million total).  This will result in a potential gap of several tens of millions of middle aged skill workers over the course of the next ten years.  Thus companies must focus on ways to keep their employees as healthy and productive as possible to stay above the red line.  Sullivan encourages employers to embrace the human capital model to overcome this trend. People are appreciable assets, unlike machines, so we need to invest in them by implementing a corporate health and wellness program.

For business, the real value of health is in performance at work versus health care costs.  Most attempts to capture the impact of employee health in the workplace have focused on Return on investment (ROI) versus Burden of Illness (BOI), due to the fact that it is much easier concept to calculate.  However, increased BOI (presenteeism) has a much greater impact than rising medical costs, for it reduces functionality of the employee and costs the company money before an employee ever makes it to the doctor’s office. Companies must help their employees avoid the pitfalls of the current “symptom management” approach of American health care by providing its own form of preventative population health management for its employees.  This is why corporate wellness is the future NOW!

The bottom line when it comes to your company’s bottom line is that a leaner employee is a better employee.  By taking the lead in implementing a population health management program for your employees your company will be recognized as an innovative leader in the future of the American corporation.

Featured in March 2008 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

A Business Plan….For The Body

stock-footage-business-people-discussing-the-plan-in-office-with-large-windowAs the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”  Every aspiring business owner knows that the first step in setting up a successful business venture is a sound business plan.  The business plan lays down the foundation for the company, from the mission statement to the financial projections.  It is essentially the blue print for what the hope for success is built upon. When it comes to our own personal fitness however, most of us plan to fail because there was never a real “plan” to put in motion and follow.

Adopting the concept of a business plan to your own personal exercise program is not a radical idea.  In fact, a Wharton School grad turned fitness trainer applied his keen business sense to the realm of fitness.  In his #1 New York Times best-selling book, The Business Plan for the Body, Jim Karas takes a satirical, yet very fundamental approach to helping the reader understand that taking care of the body is very much like running a Fortune 500 company.  It begins with a plan and that plan is what guides you to success.  Fall off the plan and you will most certainly struggle.  Even with a business plan in place, some companies still struggle and eventually fold.  So how do you keep a business plan for the body that works and does not lead to foreclosure?  Take proactive steps now and develop a plan to stay ahead of the competition.

It is estimated that 75 percent of U.S. companies offer some kind of health promotion program, yet 129 million people in today’s workforce are labeled as obese.  If health and fitness were our business, we would be operating in the red!  With the rising cost of health care, you as an individual or as an employer should be concerned.  The problem can easily be turned around by getting yourself and your employees to buy into the concept of health and fitness, much like the aspiring entrepreneur who must convince investors to buy into a vision of success.  Here’s a look at some of the benefits exercise can bring to you and your organization:

  • Increased productivity at work
  • Decreased days missed from work
  • Decreased anxiety and stress levels
  • Improved attention and concentration
  • Improved team morale and self esteem
  • Overall decreased health care fees

As a business owner, you need to ask yourself, “Would my company benefit from increased work productivity, decreased days lost from work, lower levels of stress and improved morale?” Absolutely! The challenge is where to begin.  Much liking asking the bank for a small business loan, getting people to buy into the notion of fitness is not always very easy.  After all, it involves an investment of time, money, energy, and most of all it requires change.  Everyone knows they have to do it, but the statistics have something else to say.  The return on the investment however, is worth its weight in gold.  So let’s take a look at how can you develop a successful business plan for your body and your employees?

  • Create a mission statement.  What type of business (fitness/wellness) are you going to create? Are you looking for a temporary quick fix (doomed venture) or are you working on a lifestyle change (imminent success)?  It is vital that your intentions are clearly stated so that when the going gets tough, quick reference can be made to this to keep you on the straight and arrow.
  • Develop a business plan.  How are you going to go about your business? Are you going to join a health club? Work with a personal trainer? Is this a sole proprietorship (alone) or a corporation (group effort)? Research has repeatedly shown that working with others is a guaranteed path to success and growth.
  • Scout the competition. What are those who you deem as successful doing? What kinds of incentives/ benefits are being offered to their employees?
  • Go public with your business (IPO).  Let everyone know your intentions and how investing in a health / fitness mindset is time and money well spent.  The more people who are aware of your venture, the greater the return on your investment.  In addition, the more people that are aware of your venture, the less likely the chance of falling off the wagon.
  • Identify the Management Team.  Who’s the ring leader? Who or whom will make sure that this venture develops, grows, and endures?  It is important that the right people are selected for this role.  Otherwise, the ship goes down and you with it.
  • The financials. What is feasible, realistic, and attainable? Crunch the numbers (money, time, etc.) and make it work for you.  If the success of your business (fitness / wellness) is important enough to you, nothing should stand in your path.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

Just like starting a new business, there is a level of uncertainty and nervousness with starting an exercise program.  Thoughts of “I’ve done this before” and “Exercise just isn’t my thing” always seem to creep up.  But if you continue to be a bystander and watch the train go by, then all you can do is dream about success.

Featured in June 2004 Issue of 422 Business Advisor