Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Most Americans Want Public Policies to Prevent Obesity

By Steven Reinberg

THURSDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- A large majority of Americans say they
support changes in public policy to stem the rising tide of obesity among
adults, a new survey shows.

"There is a lot of support for employer and health policies aimed at
preventing obesity," said lead researcher Bernard Fuemmeler, an assistant
professor in the department of community and family medicine at Duke
University Medical Center, in Durham, N.C.

"This study provides tangible evidence that people support wide-scale policy
changes that can affect obesity in the U.S.," Fuemmeler added.

The findings appear in the January issue of the American Journal of
Preventive Medicine.

Approximately 60 million American adults are obese, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1998, Americans spent about 9
percent of all medical expenses on problems linked to being overweight or
obese, the
CDC reports.

The new telephone survey of 1,139 adults found that 85 percent supported tax
breaks for employers who made exercise space available to employees.

In addition, 73 percent said they'd support government incentives for
companies that reduced the cost of health insurance for employees who had
healthy lifestyles and shed extra pounds. Seventy-two percent said they
would support government policies requiring insurance companies to cover
obesity treatment and prevention programs.

"There is growing public advocacy for these kinds of policy changes,"
Fuemmeler said. "There is also advocacy in the research community for
large-scale policy changes. With some push, we might be able to get some
changes that would help us better address the obesity epidemic in the

But one expert said it will take more than policy changes to get Americans
to eat better and exercise more.

"The problem is not necessarily that employers need tax incentives," said
Kathryn M. Kolasa, a professor in the department of nutrition services and
patient education at East Carolina University. "The employer can expect to
realize health-care cost savings and can be motivated by that."

However, "It's not clear what will motivate the employees," Kolasa said.

One problem is misinformation about weight loss. "Most individuals that
present for nutrition counseling have significant amounts of misinformation
about food and beverages that prevent them from being successful in weight
loss or weight management," Kolasa said.

"Also, people continue to say that it costs more money to eat healthy, when
it has been demonstrated time and again you can eat healthy at no greater
cost," Kolasa added.

She does believe that changes in policy might make it easier for people to
take advantage of health-promotion programs.

"Just because an insurance company provides a wellness benefit doesn't mean
people will use it," Kolasa said. "I have one patient who was excited to
receive the wellness benefit -- six visits with a certified dietitian during
the year. Her employer let her take time from work for the first visit, but
said subsequent visits would have to be on her time. This same employer
allows employees to take time for doctor visits without penalty," she said.


Post a Comment

<< Home