Thursday, June 11, 2009

Model Health Care in Green Bay, Maybe, But Model Lives?

According to this morning's Washington Post, "When President Obama touches down today in Green Bay, Wis., he will be landing in one of the highest-value health communities in the nation, a city that by numerous measures has managed to control medical spending while steadily improving health outcomes." The article goes on to state that,"What Obama is likely to hear in Green Bay is testimony to the value of digital records, physician collaboration, preventive care and transparency, say those most involved in Wisconsin's innovative approach."

That all sounds great, and should be adopted more widely. Good for Green Bay, Wisconsin.

But what about Americans' individual personal responsibility to make lifestyle changes that may avoid illnesses altogether, before seeing a doctor (especially chronic ones like adult-onset diabetes and heart disease)?

Obesity. According to the National Center for Health, the percentage of the American population that was "obese" by clinical definition rose from 13% in 1962 to 31% in 2000. (Though Wisonsin is pretty middle of the road: it was the 22nd fattest state in 2007 and 28th in 2008.) Researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that in 2003, obesity-attributable medical expenditures reached $75 billion.
America's obesity rates are the highest in the world. 64% of Americans are apparently overweight or obese, by clinical definition. As we look to the rest of the world for models of health care reform, perhaps we should be looking more broadly.....

If a politican as personally popular and charismatic as Pres. Obama feels that he cannot make that issue a central focus of a national discussion about containing health care costs in America, who will? And can we blame anyone but ourselves, collectively, for our politicians' unwillingness to address this directly?
Even an Orwell-ian level of digital record keeping won't offset the medical costs of our own lifestyle choices.....

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