Study: We’re just getting fatter

Published 11:08 pm Friday, September 21, 2012

The day after Alabamians approved a Constitutional Amendment, primarily to keep Medicaid afloat, a new study told us we ain’t seen nothing yet.

“F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future,” produced by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, estimated that by 2030 62.6 percent of adult Alabamians will be obese. That’s almost twice as many obese adults as there are currently in Alabama.

Along with higher obesity rates will come more diabetes – an estimated 661,673 new case; more heart disease and stroke – 1.4 million cases; more blood pressure problems – 1.2 million new cases; and more obesity-related cancers – likely 202,226 cases.

Those health problems will put huge burdens on our health care system, and specifically on health care funding. We are not alone: Alabama would be one of 16 states — mostly in the South and Midwest — with more than 60 percent rates of obesity.

The study held out hope if Alabamians would lose just a little weight. If we cut our body mass indexes by just 5 percent, the report estimated, we could save $9.4 billion in health care in Alabama by 2030. That might sound difficult, but that 5 percent would be equivalent to a 200-pound, 6-foot-tall person losing 10 pounds.

The report recommended investing in obesity prevention. We are not convinced this is a problem government can fix. But we do wonder if rewarding people who exercise and maintain a health weight with discounts on health insurance – or charging higher rates for those who don’t – would be more of an incentive.