Lat­est news shows more un­healthy trends for pa­tients and pol­i­tics

These trends cer­tainly don’t bode well for a healthy na­tion

Modern Healthcare - - EDITORIAL -

It sure looks as if the na­tion is headed in the wrong di­rec­tion. While that’s not in­tended as a blan­ket po­lit­i­cal state­ment, opin­ion polling would show there are strong ar­gu­ments for and against such a po­si­tion. It’s some­thing we will all spend the next six months de­bat­ing, es­pe­cially as the fall elec­tion draws closer. But a cou­ple of re­cent sto­ries specif­i­cally re­in­force trends that con­tinue to jeop­ar­dize the long-term health of our coun­try.

Last week brought the re­lease of an­other set of re­ports on the state of our na­tion’s obe­sity epi­demic. And the news isn’t good.

One study, con­ducted by re­searchers at Duke Univer­sity and pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Pre­ven­tive Medicine, es­ti­mates that by the year 2030, the per­cent­age of our pop­u­la­tion con­sid­ered obese is pro­jected to hit 42%, up from the cur­rent 34%. The change would rep­re­sent an in­crease of about 32 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. And of the to­tal, 11% will be se­verely obese in 2030, com­pared with 6% now.

The find­ings do have a sil­ver lin­ing, since a study four years ago es­ti­mated that more than half (51%) of the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion would be clas­si­fied as obese by 2030. Maybe the sus­tained at­ten­tion and in­ter­ven­tion ef­forts tar­get­ing obe­sity are start­ing to show some re­sults, even if the num­bers are still go­ing the wrong way.

Ac­cord­ing to the study, hold­ing the cur­rent rate of obe­sity in Amer­ica flat would avoid an es­ti­mated $550 bil­lion in re­lated med­i­cal costs over the next two decades. Now that would be an at­trac­tive re­turn on in­vest­ment.

A sec­ond re­port last week, this one from the In­sti­tute of Medicine, fo­cused on sys­temic causes of obe­sity, mov­ing the spot­light off in­di­vid­ual blame to more broad-based ini­tia­tives that could prove highly ef­fec­tive, es­pe­cially em­pha­sis on ex­er­cise pro­grams and bet­ter food choices in our schools. More con­tro­ver­sial pro­pos­als in­clude a tax on sweet­ened drinks to dis­cour­age high-caloric con­sump­tion. Such ap­proaches are cer­tainly food for thought.

An­other story last week that por­tends a con­tin­ued slide in the wrong di­rec­tion—in public pol­icy and our public dis­course—in­volves the pri­mary-elec­tion de­feat of Sen. Richard Lu­gar, Re­pub­li­can of In­di­ana, end­ing nearly four decades of ser­vice in the U.S. Se­nate. His most griev­ous sins? Ap­par­ently he was too prone to com­pro­mise, to seek com­mon ground and to show col­le­gial­ity. That was anath­ema to his op­po­nent and ap­par­ently much of his party.

Of course, com­pro­mise with­out prin­ci­ples is a worth­less ex­er­cise. But that isn’t Lu­gar. If the peo­ple of the Hoosier State had doubts about Lu­gar’s core be­liefs, it’s amaz­ing that it only took 37 years for them to fire him.

It’s yet an­other blow to the chances for es­sen­tial bi­par­ti­san res­o­lu­tion of crit­i­cal is­sues that face the na­tion, such as con­fronting deep bud­get deficits and our moun­tain of debt as well as ad­dress­ing the long-term health of Medi­care, Med­i­caid and So­cial Se­cu­rity.

In a pre­pared post-con­ces­sion state­ment last week, Lu­gar took aim at what he saw as the un­bend­ing ap­proach of his op­po­nent, who Lu­gar said promised “re­flex­ive votes for a re­jec­tion­ist or­tho­doxy and rigid op­po­si­tion to the ac­tions and pro­pos­als of the other party. … This is not con­ducive to prob­lem-solv­ing and gov­er­nance.”

No mat­ter what hap­pens in the Novem­ber elec­tions, one-party so­lu­tions will not be vi­able. Those run­ning for Congress and those who al­ready hold a seat there should re­mem­ber some­thing known as the “Great Com­pro­mise of 1787,” an achieve­ment that es­tab­lished the rep­re­sen­ta­tive struc­ture of the very in­sti­tu­tion to which they as­pire.

Com­pro­mise? The Found­ing Fa­thers must have been crazy.

DAVID MAY

As­sis­tant Man­ag­ing

Ed­i­tor/fea­tures

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