As Ohioans get fatter, their wallets will get thinner, national health study says

If forecasts from a new national health study are correct, that more than 50 percent of adult Ohioans will be obese by 2018, it follows that all Buckeye wallets will become thinner as the costs for obesity-attributable health care services will be passed on in the form of higher insurance premiums.

A study commissioned by the United Health Foundation (UHF), Partnership for Prevention and American Public Health Association forecasts that the annual medical costs associated with obesity could rise by more than $1,800 per person within the next decade as Ohio’s obesity rate tops 50 percent.

According to Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University, the rise of health insurance premiums could rise from $433 in 2008 to $1,877 a year in 2018, even for right-sized adults.

The ranking of states according to health profiles by UHF show Ohio moved from 34 last year to 33 this year. Vermont was first; Mississippi was last.

Among Ohio’s list of strengths was a low rate of uninsured population at 11.6 percent, a high immunization coverage with 82.9 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving complete immunizations and low geographic disparity within the state at 9.2 percent. Ohio ranks higher for health determinants than for health outcomes, study details noted, indicating that overall healthiness should improve over time.

What are Ohio’s health challenges? Among them are a high prevalence of obesity at 29.2 percent of the population, high levels of air pollution at 13.4 micrograms of fine particulate per cubic meter, low public health funding at $39 per person, a high rate of preventable hospitalizations at 84.2 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees, many poor mental health days per month at 3.9 days in the previous 30 days and a high rate of cancer deaths at 209.1 deaths per 100,000 population.

What’s changed over time? Included are the prevalence of smoking decreased from 23.1 percent to 20.1 percent of the population.  In the past five years, the percentage of children in poverty increased from 16.5 percent to 21.0 percent of persons under age 18.  In the past ten years, immunization coverage increased from 47.7 percent to 82.9 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving complete immunizations.  Since 1990, the prevalence of obesity increased from 11.3 percent to 29.2 percent of the population.

Childhood obesity bill introduced by Ohio Senators Kearney, Coughlin

In separate but related news, two Ohio senators, Democrat Eric Kearny of Cincinnati and Republican Kevin Coughlin of Cuyahoga Falls, introduced a bill (SB210) that involves Ohio schools in tackling the epidemic of childhood obesity.

Kearney, testifying before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday, said the “failure to address obesity at an early age will lead to lifelong health issues and will come at enormous expense.”

Backed by various health and business oriented groups, the bill contains provisions that build physical activity into the daily school routine and make it a key component of making children active again, requiring Body Mass Index measurements as students age and ensuring that children have access to nutritious foods in their school setting.

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