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Most of us utilize the healthcare system at least occasionally. For women that might mean the birth of a child, a broken bone, or other injuries.
Others, unfortunately, have chronic conditions that require more utilization of healthcare services.
The Cost of Healthcare is Staggering!
The United States spent a staggering 4.1 trillion dollars on healthcare-related costs in 2020. This expense costs approximately $12,530 per resident and represents about 19.7 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It is difficult to fathom that many people need health care, but studies show that some of the health conditions are preventable.
According to The Lancit Public Health, the cost of preventable illnesses is staggeringly high, estimated at $730·4 billion in 2016.
For instance, the CDC reports that smoking-related illnesses in the United States cost more than $300 billion each year.
- More than $225 billion for direct medical care for adults;
- More than $156 billion in lost productivity, including $5.6 billion in lost productivity due to secondhand smoke exposure.
Another example of a preventable condition is obesity.
According to the CDC, Obesity affects 19% of children and 42% of adults, putting them at risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Over 25% of young people aged 17 to 24 are too heavy to join the US military. Obesity costs the US health care system $147 billion a year.
There is an ongoing debate on this issue in Washington and among employers who are struggling to supplement employee healthcare costs.
Everyone wants good health care, but no one wants to take responsibility for it or pay for it.
So What Do We Do?
Employers bear the brunt of rising healthcare costs.
These employers are investing in wellness programs to help educate employees on the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices and are offering incentives for employees to get involved in managing their health.
The hope is that this health education, over time, will affect the health of our culture.
People who live healthy lifestyles do contribute to saving healthcare dollars.
It is estimated that employers saved $1 to $3 in their overall health care costs for every dollar spent on an employee wellness program. In addition, the cost of absenteeism also goes down for every dollar spent on wellness initiatives.
Wellness Programs Can Impact Lifestyles
I worked in the healthcare industry for many years and personally benefited from ongoing wellness training.
This experience helped me to develop healthy lifestyle habits that I have maintained to this day.
I didn’t realize how uncommon this kind of training was until I left the healthcare field and began speaking to people in other industries.
The most basic wellness information that was ingrained in me was very foreign to others.
With the current health care crisis, more and more attention is being paid to employee health because of the part each and every one of us plays in improving the health of our culture and controlling the out-of-control health care costs.
As parents, children of older parents, employees, and employers, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and use that knowledge to positively influence others.
7 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Health
Get a physical – Contact your physician and get an age-specific health screening. A physical is the first step in learning about your health.
A medical professional can alert you to the early signs of many conditions and can monitor your health.
There are many health conditions that can be averted if caught early. Early detection can save not only lives but also precious healthcare dollars.
Take medications as prescribed. If you have a chronic health condition, take your medications as prescribed. Some medications require consistent dosage to be effective. For instance, if you are on blood pressure medicine, make sure you take it as prescribed by your doctor.
Participate in your employer-sponsored wellness program. If you are fortunate enough to have a wellness program at work, take advantage of it. What you will learn is sure to give you a few aha moments that can drastically impact your health habits.
Learn about healthy eating. Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, and that is mainly because of diet. We all have choices every day when deciding what to eat. Learn about healthy eating and work to improve your eating habits.
Participate in an exercise program. Consult your physician and begin an exercise program. My employer started a lunch walking program. I participated in that opportunity and have maintained walking as a lifestyle. Find something you enjoy, and get out and move!
Identify a health partner. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be challenging at times. Find a health partner to encourage you and hold you accountable. For instance, hang with people who say no to desserts and yes to a stroll about the block.
Monitor your progress over time. There is nothing like data to keep you motivated. Enjoy the benefit of watching weight numbers go down as exercise time and distance go up!
Healthy Lifestyles Give You More Freedom
I have a close friend who is obese. Some people have health conditions that cause obesity that they can’t control.
However, my friend’s obesity is the result of no exercise and poor diet choices. The unfortunate aspect of their obesity is their inability to move easily. Walking is difficult, which means there are things they simply can’t do.
Changing from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy lifestyle is very liberating and allows all of us to be able to do more.
I don’t know about you, but I’m in this for the long haul, and keeping fit is one way I can be sure to have the strength and energy to pursue what life has to offer.
How different would the United States be if all of its citizens did their part to live a healthy lifestyle and the dollars spent on health care covered health issues that were not self-inflicted?