An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of ... gold!
October 30, 2011
by Susan Kunferman, director/health officer for the Wood County Health Department
Wisconsin Rapids Tribune
We are fortunate to live in a country where we have access to health care and a safe and healthy food supply. We are progressive and fortunate to live longer, healthier lives than people in other countries, right? Wrong.
Compared to other countries, the life expectancy in America ranks 29th. Yes, 29th. People in 28 other countries live longer lives than us.
They must spend more money on health care, right? Wrong again. What the United States spends per person on health care is more than double other industrialized countries. This hits our businessesespecially hard. The annual cost to businesses in this country due to chronic illnesses is $1.1 trillion.
According to Trust for America's Health, "a small strategic investment in disease prevention could result in significant savings in U.S. health care costs." In fact, a recent study concludes that an investment of $10 per person per year on proven prevention programs that increase physical activity, improve nutrition and prevent tobacco use could save our country more than $16 billion annually within just five years. That is a return of nearly $6 for every $1 spent on prevention. That trickles down to a savings of more than $4.5 million in Wood County alone, each and every year, with only a $750,000 annual investment. I wish our retirement accounts were doing that well!
Obesity is one of the major conditions draining health care dollars in this country. In Wood County, two out of three adults are overweight or obese. That's about 50,000 people. Obesity-related medical expenses total $1.5 billion in our state. Without action, obesity will cost us $6.7 billion per year by 2018.
If we don't invest in prevention efforts to turn this trend around, today's children are likely to be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. That is not acceptable. Not in America, not in Wisconsin, and not in Wood County.
That's why we're taking action. Get Active-Cause Community Change is all about making healthy choices easier choices, where we live, work, learn and play. We're working with dozens of community partners to offer nutritious foods at school. We're working with worksites to offer healthier vending options. We're working with restaurants to label more nutritious menu items. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Our investment in these programs is a step in the right direction, and we'll see our return as Wood County leads the way to a healthier future for us all.
The mission of the Wood County Health Department is to maximize the quality of life across the lifespan by promoting health, protecting the environment and preventing disease and injury.
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