You cannot build wealth without health, according to Gov. Rick Snyder, who recently introduced a bold plan to improve health and wellness across the state.
And what is the condition of Michigan’s health?
Critical, according to most published reports.
CAUSE FOR ALARM
Currently, 67 percent of Michigan adults are overweight or obese, consuming an average of 2,700 calories per day, an increase of over 500 calories more than 40 years ago.
While the obesity rate in America is more than double that of many European nations, our response has been paltry in comparison to our counterparts who have initiated aggressive policies to stem obesity rates through a so- called “fat tax” on fast and highly-processed packaged foods.
And although efforts to establish a “traffic light” coding system to help consumers separate good foods (green light) from bad (red light) failed in Europe, the initiative forced many manufacturers to reformulate packaged food products and introduce healthier food options.
While LivingWELL magazine and the Michigan Chronicle newspaper agree that it’s important to support healthier food choices, it does not endorse policies that absolve consumers of self-responsibility.
We are hopeful that Gov. Snyder’s aggressive stance to create “people powered” programs to stem rising obesity rates, based on taking responsibility for our lifestyle choices, will result in the type of programs capable of becoming a model for other states.
Gov. Snyder called for a Sept. 21 summit (Michigan Call to Action to Reduce and Prevent Obesity) to begin to address obesity concerns. The event was expected to attract key stakeholders, as well as serve as an important barometer of public concern.
FAT CHANCE IS NOW A CERTAINTY
“Every Michigander has a role to play in improving health and wellness,” said Gov. Snyder, who is encouraging Michigan residents to accept personal responsibility for their health.
“While medical advances can address many problems, all Michiganders have the power to improve their own health. This is critical because many of the chronic conditions we face, from diabetes to coronary heart disease, are greatly influenced by our lifestyle choices.”
We can and should make better decisions in regard to our lifestyle, according to the governor who advocates embracing positive habits such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting an annual check-up and not using tobacco.
If we don’t, officials worry that our health will deteriorate and healthcare costs will continue to climb, creating a major obstacle for the reinvention of our state.
“With 12.4 percent of our youth now obese, it’s particularly important that we stem the rising obesity tide,” stated Olga Dazzo, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, who is concerned that, left unchecked, the obesity epidemic will create the first generation of Michiganders that will not live as long as their parents.
Officials at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan report that obesity-related health care costs now total $3 billion, with 70 percent of medical expenses directly related to this epidemic, and are expected to climb dramatically if left unchecked.
The company has proven that health insurance plans can be leveraged to get people to engage in improving their own health. Blue Cross’ Healthy Blue Living health plan, launched five years ago, demonstrates that people respond well to financial incentives to quit smoking and adopt healthier lifestyles contained in innovative plans.
Improving access to healthcare is among the governor’s top priorities.
For too many individuals and small businesses, cost has put healthcare coverage out of reach, according to the Snyder administration. The Health Insurance Exchange, mandated by federal health care reform legislation, is an attempt to change that.
The Affordable Care Act requires states to establish a health insurance exchange by 2014. Snyder worries that if Michigan does not create its own exchange, the federal government will impose one.
He has asked lawmakers to pass legislation creating the MI Health Marketplace before Thanksgiving, which is an online based health insurance exchange based on free-market principles and a competitive marketplace.
SAVING OUR KIDS
When the American Heart Association asked parents what their number one healthcare concern was earlier this year, it was not surprised to discover that childhood obesity topped the list, over drug abuse and smoking.
We are raising a generation of kids addicted to bad foods and averse to activity.
The governor has proposed including Body Mass Index (BMI) information in the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, which tracks childhood immunization records, to increase obesity screening rates and improve treatment of childhood obesity.
The proposal is an important start toward addressing escalating obesity rates.
Even more promising is the governor’s pledge to work with Michigan’s farmers to alleviate the state’s obesity problem. The consumption of more Michigan produce will help the state of our economy and our health.
The governor’s efforts are generating praise from healthcare providers like Blue Cross.
“Blue Cross applauds Gov. Snyder for elevating the public focus on the childhood obesity epidemic in Michigan,” said Andrew Hetzel, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s vice president for Corporate Communications. “The prevalence of obesity among Michigan’s children is a health crisis that has the potential to rob our next generation of adults of a quality life and to drive healthcare costs to unaffordable levels.”
The obesity epidemic is a fight we cannot afford to lose. Join in the conversation at www.michigan.gov/snyder.
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