An Ounce Of Prevention

Article by Dr. Paul Kennedy
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Dr. Paul KennedyWe all know that health insurance doesn’t insure health but, rather, it insures sickness. And we all know that those individuals who exercise on a regular basis are less prone to a growing list of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even some forms of cancer to name just a few. So why aren’t the insurance companies in the health business rather than the chronic disease business? Why would an insurance company not support (i.e. pay for) a weight loss/fitness program rather than gastric by-pass surgery. Well, aside from being tied to a profit motive (an unfair and counterproductive relationship when it comes to health), the tide may be starting to turn.

Provisions in the new health- care law currently being phased includes many sensible incentives for insurance companies to start focusing on the prevention and gradual remediation of diseases that are costing us billions per year. Most of the “conditions” that increase the likelihood of many chronic diseases are related to—no surprise here—obesity and inactivity! But how does one accurately measure the effects of progressive exercise programs on disease? The answer lies in a burgeoning amount of accurate and peer reviewed research that clearly shows the relationship between lack of exercise, obesity and chronic disease. Of course, the insurance industry is way behind in terms of the existing data base and the wheels of business have a

tendency to turn slowly but there will come a time—and it will be sooner rather than later—that insurance companies will gladly pay for a an individual’s comprehensive fitness/wellness program that is likely to reduce the incidence of and assist in the remediation of at least a dozen different “illnesses”. These “illnesses” and conditions include diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, lung disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even some forms of cancer! And this isn’t even the whole list!

Another issue is the missing connection between the physician and the patient. For example, nearly one in three obese individuals that seek medical care for a specific condition or malady do not receive advice about their weight or counseling about their weight issues. That constitutes tens of millions of Americans that, with the help of their doctor, have their heads in the sand. An additional motive or underlying reason why exercise “prescription” has not been embraced by most doctors and/or insurance companies is the fragile nature of patient/client adherence and/or the efficacy of a specific exercise program or regimen. Moreover, the fact that the fitness industry is rife with fraudulent claims made by weight loss products and services makes it hard to determine what weight loss program or system to support or underwrite with insurance dollars in order to prevent the chronic diseases in the first place.

But the title of this article is “An Ounce Of Prevention” and, therefore, it should be clear to anyone that has perused our archive of articles that even simple forms of exercise such as walking (preferably brisk walking) represent a start in terms of weight management “programs”. Additionally, just a small reduction in caloric intake—say just 200 calories per day (severe caloric restriction is a road to nowhere!)—can result in an annual fat loss of over 20 pounds! Add a little strength training to the “program” and you’ve got an exercise “system” that is doable, sustainable and effective for virtually everyone. Of course, see your doctor before starting or restarting an exercise program but get moving! A little can go a long way. Don’t allow yourself to be relegated to a life without health. And the best medicine is exercise—even if it’s just an “ounce” or so at a time. As evolved bi-pedal mammals, we were created to move and not sit, to walk or run and not remain motionless, to MOVE and not remain still. Regular exercise can be the best medicine. Even the insurance industry is starting to understand that concept. For example, United-Health Group, a major health insurance company, has recently begun a diabetes prevention program in partnership with the YMCA. This represents a small step now that could promote great financial returns for the insurance company (which helps to keep our premiums lower) and even greater returns in terms of improved public health. In other words, an ounce of prevention!

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for October, 2010. Good luck with YOUR program. I KNOW you can do it!

3 Responses to An Ounce Of Prevention

  1. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  2. Cyndy says:

    Lovely sharp post. Never thought that it was this easy. Extolment to you!

  3. PaulaGAYTAN says:

    Thank you for a great post.

    – Janae ELROD

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