VIDEO: Indiana Health Means Business Forum Highlights

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On Feb. 5, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted the sixth forum in a series of 10, as part of the Health Means Business campaign. In partnership with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Chamber Foundation, the Wellness Council of Indiana, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the forum brought together public and private sector stakeholders to discuss the role of business in community wellness.

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It’s a Big Fat Global Problem

It’s been well documented that Indiana has an obesity problem. It doesn’t diminish that challenge to know that we’re not alone.

According to a recent ABC News story, “almost a third of the world is now fat, and no country has been able to curb obesity rates in the last three decades.”

Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington reviewed more than 1,700 studies (that took place between 1980 and 2013) from 188 countries. A few findings:

  • Two billion people worldwide are overweight or obese
  • In the Middle East and North Africa, nearly 60% of men and 65% of women are heavy
  • About two in three adults in the United Kingdom are overweight, making it the fattest country in Western Europe

The research showed a link between income and obesity — as people obtain more money, their waistlines also expand.

As we’ve been telling you the last two-and-a-half years, the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan has a goal — reduce obesity levels to less than 20% of the population — as part of its Attractive Business Climate driver. We’re focusing on workplace wellness this summer during our free Connect & Collaborate luncheons.

It’s a big, global challenge — one that each of us needs to try to tackle in our state by working together.

Study: Nearly 31% of Hoosiers are Obese

Ball State University recently issued a press release stating a staggering 31% of Hoosiers are obese. Horrifying as that is, there are many initiatives going on statewide, including the Wellness Council of Indiana, that offer resources to help employers deal with this problem. Ball State reports:

Nearly 31 percent of Indiana’s adult population reports being obese, ranking the state eighth worst nationally in terms of percentage of population severely overweight, says a new study by Ball State University.

The Burden of Adult Obesity in Indiana, a study by the Ball State’s Global Health Institute (GHI), found obesity rates rose by 0.7 percent to 30.8 percent in the last year. The national rate has dropped slightly from 27.5 percent in 2011. Data for the study was provided by the Centers for Disease Control.
People are classified as obese when their body mass index (BMI), a measurement obtained by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of the person’s height in meters, exceeds 30.
"The percentage of adults who are obese has steadily increased over the past 20 years for both Americans and Hoosiers," said Kerry Anne McGeary, GHI director, and Phyllis A. Miller, professor of health economics. "Obesity poses a major risk for serious non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and cancer."
She also pointed out that an obese person in the United States spends about $1,400, or roughly 42 percent, more each year on health care than a healthy-weight person. Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths, resulting in 2.8 million deaths per year.
Ball State’s research also found that In Indiana:

  • 30.9 percent of males report being obese compared to 30.8 percent of females.
  • Among adults under 65, the percentage who report being obese increases with age, while obesity levels decrease for those with higher levels of education.
  • 13.3 percent of adults who report obesity also have cardiovascular disease as compared to 7.2 percent of adults who reported a healthy weight.
  • 42.2 percent of African-American adults are obese, compared to 34.7 percent of Hispanic adults and 29.5 percent of white adults.
  • 18.7 percent of adults who report obesity also report having diabetes compared to 4 percent of healthy weight adults.

McGeary also points out that while obesity is preventable, medical costs associated with the condition are skyrocketing. In 2008, the annual direct medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was estimated to be as high as $147 billion, rising to nearly 10 percent of all medical spending.
"By 2030, the majority of states could have obesity levels above 50 percent and Indiana could hit that 50 percent level well before then," McGeary said. "If the average BMI of the population could reduce by just 5 percentage points by 2030, millions of people could avoid obesity-related diseases and billions of dollars would be saved."

Health Care Answers are Elusive

Newt Gingrich founded the Center for Health Transformation shortly after leaving Congress. Solving the health care crisis, however, is the most perplexing challenge out there, he says.

Personal responsibility will have to be increased. "No one but you can keep you healthy. … People should have the right to know the price and quality in health care as in anything else."

What can businesses do? "Tell everyone how much you paid for their health insurance. Tell them this is the extra pay you’re not getting."

Obesity is an under-recognized threat. Children should be weighed at least three times a year to identify outliers who are likely candidates for diabetes and other illnesses.

"A fundamental change in culture is needed with obesity," Gingrich says. "We did it with smoking, seat belts and drunk driving. We need to do it again."

An overall approach he recommends is chronic disease management, with focuses on early detection, wellness and prevention.

Gingrich is coming to Indiana on November 6 as keynote speaker at the Indiana Chamber’s 19th Annual Awards Dinner.