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Hey Mass. House – Obesity Bites

Posted by John McDonough  May 8, 2012 10:40 PM

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Message to the smart people in the Massachusetts House of Representatives who are getting ready to debate legislation to reform the health care financing/payment system: if you want to save real money and add real value to our society, emphasize prevention and public health, and prioritize it.

Here's the latest, just in time for the House debate, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Reduce the rate of growth of obesity by one percent a year over the next two decades, and slice the nation's health care costs by $85 billion.

Keep obesity rates at current rates -- well below the 33 percent projected increase, and save the nation $550 billion during the same period.

Whenever I hear a total US number about almost anything, I instinctively multiply it in my head by .02 (well, by .01 and then I double the number), and that becomes my benchmark average for Massachusetts savings (crude, I know, but a reasonable starting point). So the two above estimates translate into health care savings between $1.7 and $11 billion in Massachusetts health care expenses by stopping or slowing the projected increase in obesity rates in the Commonwealth (likely an overestimate because we are less obese than the nation as a whole). Still, a lot of dough, no matter how you add it up.

Today, the Institute of Medicine released a new report, "Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation," with five recommendations to meet the following goals and accelerate progress

  • Integrate physical activity every day in every way
  • Market what matters for a healthy life
  • Make healthy foods and beverages available everywhere
  • Activate employers and health care professionals
  • Strengthen schools as the heart of health

To my friends in the Mass. House of Representatives, keep the pressure on the medical care delivery system to provide value for the money we all spend on medical care; and please don't neglect the real prize, doing whatever we can to keep people healthy before they get sick. 

That's the real prize. 

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

John E. McDonough is a professor of practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is the author of the book “Inside National Health Reform”, published in 2011 by More »


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