USA Today published a couple of interesting articles on the costs of obesity in their October 7th edition. In Obesity a key link to soaring health tab as costs double, Nanci Hellmich wrote:
Americans who are 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight cost the country an estimated $147 billion in weight-related medical bills in 2008, double the amount a decade ago, according to a study by government scientists and the non-profit research group RTI International.
Obesity now accounts for 9.1% of all medical spending, up from 6.5% in 1998. Overall, an obese patient has $4,871 in medical bills a year compared with $3,442 for a patient at a healthy weight.
"Obesity is the single biggest reason for the increase in health care costs," says Eric Finkelstein, a health economist with RTI and lead researcher on the new study. "If you really want to rein in health care dollars, you have to get people dieting, exercising and living a healthier lifestyle. Otherwise somebody is going to be paying for treating these weight-related illnesses."
Surely this sends a clear message that we need to teach healthy lifestyles in the schools. We as physical educators need to continue to hammer this home to the decision-makers who continue to cut physical education courses. However, we must also promote the inclusion of the type of physical education courses that will make a positive difference.
In the second article, Doctors join fight against obesity, Hellmich wrote (describing a patient who had lost weight):
(Debra) Horne says (Dr. William) Bestermann inspired her to shape up where other doctors had failed. Several had told her she was morbidly obese but didn’t give her any specific advice. After the appointments, "I’d go home and eat a bowl of ice cream for comfort."
But with Bestermann, she says, "there was kindness in his heart and caring. He didn’t throw a bunch of diet sheets at me that said eat low-calorie, low-carb, low-fat."
Instead, she says, he gave her the knowledge and confidence to succeed.
I think this person hit the nail on the head regarding what we as physical educators need to do—give our students the knowledge and confidence and support they need to succeed. This is nothing new to Dr. Charles Corbin, who was promoting a healthy lifestyle approach to physical education over 30 years ago. His K-12 Fitness for Life curriculum includes a focus on goal setting, overcoming barriers, understanding the stages of change, and gaining support from friends and family.
Certainly there is nothing wrong with teaching students to bump the volleyball and how to keep score in pickleball, but if we really want to make a positive difference in the lives of our students, and the health of our country, we need to relate all our lessons to living healthy lifestyles. This means providing our students with knowledge and self-managements skills that promote confidence and provide the support necessary for them to make healthy decisions and carry out a lifelong plan of healthy living.
Links to the articles: