Pursuing Wellness Before Sickness Pervades

Americans are faced with the high prices of healthcare on a daily basis, but could it be related to the lifestyles choices they are making?

The health of our culture has been slowly deteriorating over the last several decades. Yesterday, I heard that obesity is now considered the number one risk factor of an American’s health; it used to be smoking.

  • 12% of American adults were obese in 1990. More than 1/3 (35.7%) were obese in 2010

  • Childhood obesity has increased by 60% since 1990. 3 million preschool-aged children (5 and under) were obese in 2010

  • 67% of American adults drink alcohol, as compared to 56% in 1990

  • The number of American adults who smoke cigarettes has declined about 5% since 1990. Today, 19% of all adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes

These statistics stand as a representation for the health of our culture today. Healthcare reform is centered on addressing these numbers and adopting ways to improve them. This is part of the Triple Aim.

The American Medical Academy is currently working on reclassifying obesity as a disease, rather than a condition. A disease is an interruption of the normal structure of any body part, organ or system that is characterized by specific symptoms and signs that may or may not be explainable. A condition is a state of health or being.

In medicine, it is generally believed that obesity is a condition in which people can change, if motivated. Providers are always trying to help their patients recognize areas of their lifestyle that need to change; improving one’s diet and exercising regularly can go a long way. With the dramatic increase in obesity, this kind of effort is crucial.

Ken Sigman, owner of Health and Benefit Systems describes this debate well; “…obesity correlates to higher risks of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other metabolic syndromes. And those conditions lead to higher medical and pharmacy costs, more absenteeism, and higher workers’ compensation and short-term disability costs.”

In the era of high healthcare costs, providers are in a unique position to help reduce these costs significantly. We have the responsibility of motivating our patients more.

We must earn the trust of our patients by meeting their health care needs. This trust will overflow into their lifestyle choices.

It is within the context of a provider-patient relationship that we can gain a better understanding of our patient’s lifestyle. Then, we will have the best chance of engaging our patient’s desire to improve their lifestyle. Successful patient engagement will have to be apart of the ACA, if the Triple Aim is to be accomplished.