The news about our country’s obesity epidemic is not getting any better.Â
As we have seen the rise of obesity over the past two decades, associated health care costs are rising as well.
The Congressional Budget Office released a report mid-September revealing that from 1987 to 2007, overweight or obese adults went from 44% of our population to 63%. During the same period, health care spending per adult rose 80% ($2,650 to $4,550).
While the CBO noted that all groups experienced a significant increase, those who were obese saw a much more rapid rate of growth of health care costs.Â Average spending increase for adults with a healthy weight was 65%. Obese adults, who comprise about 28% of the population, saw a 111% increase.
Looking forward, the CBO estimated that if obesity rates continue to increase at the same rate, 37% of the population would be obese by 2020 and per capita spending would grow to $7,760. If we can reverse this trend and see a 20% decline in obesity rates, the CBO projects spending would slow to $7,230.
This latest data just reinforce the importance of societal response to help change the course on our obesity epidemic.
Individuals play a role in making changes that will improve health.Â The public sector plays an important role in ensuring people have access to affordable healthy food and making sure our communities are safe enough for people to walk, bike and play.
And, our health care community plays a big role in helping to prevent or reverse obesity.Â Health plans were at the forefront of creating prevention and wellness programs for our members. Health plans work with physicians, patients and employers to encourage obesity prevention.
For instance, Health Net offers members, health care providers and the community its innovative Fit Families for Life â” Be in Charge! weight management program. It’s a comprehensive offering that includes a breastfeeding and nutrition support hotline, a home-based family fitness and nutrition program, personalized telephonic coaching, worksite wellness, and community workshops on nutrition and physical activity.
Partnership HealthPlan of CA, providing health coverage through public programs in Solano, Napa, Sonoma and Yolo counties, offers a voluntary program for individuals with two or more complex health issues (including diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and obesity).Â The program, which provides intensive and education telephone and in-home support for enrollees, has changed lives and reduced health care costs.
Blue Shield has an innovative, award-winning employee program called âWellvolutionâ that takes a new approach to wellness.Â It offers employees free on-site biometric screenings, health coaches to help set goals, and a variety of wellness programs — including classes on weight management, smoking cessation, nutrition and emotional well-being. Blue Shield is also testing out “walk stations” in some of their customer service departments.Â These stations allowÂ employees toÂ call customers while walking on a treadmill — incorporating exercise into their workday. Employees are also offered incentives to get moving, including medical contribution discounts and a health day off.
We have also addressed obesity prevention as an industry.Â Our Association partnered with the California Medical Foundation to create a four-volume set of comprehensive obesity guidelines for providers to improve the care and outcomes for adults, children and adolescents and pre/post bariatric surgery patients.Â With an expert panel of more than Â 60 physicians, this was the first time the health care community collaborated on a single set of guidelines for a health condition.
This is just a sampling of a variety of unique programs health plans offer.Â We will continue to innovate and test new strategies as we work to reverse course on this epidemic.