Mary Jayne Rogers Ph.D.
It’s been too long since I have reached out to talk about what is happening in the world of health and wellness. I’ve been involved with the Women Economic Forum (WEF) which is a global association of women who come together to address some of the world’s problems the way women do best – connecting, problem-solving, and dynamically facilitating change.
This week I had the honor of speaking at the New Mexico WEF on the topic of childhood obesity. Perhaps you are fortunate, and can look around to see healthy family, friends and community, and not perceive this as a problem that affects you. I want to take this opportunity to share with you some information that will help you view this problem differently – personally.
If you’ll bear with me for a moment, I’d like to share some numbers to help paint the picture. To keep the information overload at a minimum, I am only going to talk about one population – kids.
- 2015 - Globally, it is estimated the over 42 Million children under the age of five are overweight. (Under five!)
- Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be obese adults.
- Being overweight or obese puts children at a higher risk for heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, asthma and osteoarthritis – during childhood and as they age.
Ok that’s a shame. In fact, it’s tragic. “But how does that affect me?”, you ask.
Let’s look at some numbers in the US:
- Overweight and obesity in childhood are associated with $14.1 billion in additional prescription drug, emergency room and outpatient visit healthcare costs annually.
- The family of a child who is obese for two consecutive years spends on average nearly $200 more on outpatient visits, a $114 more in prescription drugs and a $12 more on emergency room visits compared to a normal/underweight child during the same two years. (Medical Expenditure Panel Survey 2002-2005).
- The average total annual health cost for a child treated for obesity under private insurance is over 3x higher than the average of all children combined.
- Total costs for children and youths with obesity-related hospitalizations nearly doubled between 2001 & 2005 (from $125.9 million in 2001 to $237.6 million in 2005).
- The US obesity epidemic affects 10.4% of children 2 - 5 years of age and more than 23 million children and teens in total.
- The financial impact in the US is approximately $117 billion per year in direct medical expenses and indirect costs, like lost productivity. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation).
That total is for one year.
If you consider the lifetime cost for each obese child, the economic drain on our country is staggering. (Globally, obesity is estimated to cost $2 trillion annually)
Hopefully I have your attention.
Maybe you are thinking, “Wow, this really hurts our economy. I can see how this could impact things like health care, the national budget – maybe even my local economy.”
You’re right. But there’s more to consider.
Remember back at the top?
- Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be obese as adults.
- Being overweight or obese put children at a higher risk for heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, asthma and osteoarthritis – during childhood and as they age.
Thanks for sticking with me on this because it’s important.
We are seeing children who are developing what we used to think of as diseases associated with aging, such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, arthritis and cancer. We also know that obesity is associated mental issues such as depression, suicidal tendencies, and acting out in socially unacceptable ways.
Thanks for your patience. Here’s the kicker.
The way our US Social Security system works is that people pay into the system while they are working. This supports the system so that we have funds to take care of our elders and those who are disabled. Therefore, having a solid workforce and low unemployment rate finances the system.
If we don’t turn this ship around, we are going to hit an iceberg. These children will be sick, tired, and disabled at a very early adult age. It’s not far-fetched to imagine that due to illnesses associated with obesity, they will not be able to work through adulthood and fully contribute to the system.
What does that mean?
- Unable to work (and thus contribute to the system) due to medical conditions
- Increasingly higher medical costs associated with these diseases drain disability funds
- Dependence on Social Security at a much younger age
- Exhaust the Social Security fund due to more people requiring help and fewer people contributing
ICEBERG! CRASH! US Economy Sinks!
Start a Movement
The thing that troubles me the most, is that the obesity crisis is absolutely preventable. But it is also escapable. I hope this information has spurred a sense of concern, if not urgency, to address this problem.
I’ve already burdened you with a lot of information in this blog, so I won’t go into detail about nutrition and movement today. But even without being a nutrition or exercise expert, there are ways you can help.
Educate - We need to educate ourselves and our communities about this issue. With that education is understanding the nutrition trends that got us to this disaster. HINT: Sugar, and high glycemic /low nutrition food.
Advocate - Be a voice for better nutrition and more physical education in schools. Reach out to local school systems and state policy makers. Your voice and your vote matter.
Communicate – Talk to people – parents, doctors, obstetricians, pediatricians, PTAs, community organizations, newspapers. Spread the word! HINT: Share this blog. Share my book.
These are not someone else’s kids. They are OUR kids. They are children of the world. They literally are OUR FUTURE.
- They are helpless.
- They have no power.
- They have no voice.
It is up to all of us to help them and to save ourselves.
Until next time…
Be well my friends
p.s. I would be pleased to speak with your community group or organization on this topic or your wellness topic of interest. Contact me at BeWell@doctormaryjayne.com