Obesity is in the news again this week, but the tone of the news has changed. Until recently discussion generally centered around the growth of obesity and how it is affecting more people with some discussions about how obese and very overweight people are prone to develop more serious illness than lighter people. Now the news is focused more on the problems that obese people are posing for the rest of society.
The War On The Obese
It seems that rather than a war on obesity there is not a war on the obese. Today the Nursing Times reported that “Rising obesity may increase nurses’ workload“. Recent research showed that people that are very overweight suffer from more medical conditions than people of a healthy weight. Naturally this is going to mean that the increasing rates of obesity is going to increase the demands on nurses and doctors that have to provide aid and advice to the overweight.
New research carried out by Dutch scientists has shown that the obese are more likely to seek medical assistance than smokers or those just unfit. This additional burden on the health system will result in increased costs which will hit the taxpayers pocket.
So, there are plans to make the obese pay more for their healthcare. Earlier this year Air France-KLM announced that obese passengers will have to pay for 2 seats if they cannot fit into one, and if they do not declare that they are severely overweight and cannot squeeze into their seat they will not be able to fly.
Today the British Daily Mail ran a story entitled Unhealthy patients could be denied free NHS treatment. Although it will not be just obese people that will be paying, treatments for conditions such as dementia, fertility treatment, IVF and various complimentary services will also be made premium services.
In addition to charging the obese for specific obesity related problems, the NHS may impose penalties on patients that refuse to make lifestyle changes to improve their health and try to lose weight. Last year Obama pledged to reduce the costs of health care and tackle the rising tide of obesity related issues.
The economic crisis is partly to blame for these measures, but really it is about time that society stopped paying to keep people unhealthy. The government has spent years encouraging people to stop smoking by increasing the cost of smoking and banning it from public areas, and this has helped reduce rates of lung cancer and heart disease. However, there is no tax on food, healthy or junk, and it is very hard for any government to intervene to make people eat less.
Some health insurance companies have implemented schemes to reward people who are more active, but how can a similar scheme be implemented at a national level? The best way must be to reward the healthy but in such a system as the NHS the healthy are rarely available for monitoring, it is the sick and obese that are walking through the doors of doctor’s surgeries.
We expect to see more measures in the forthcoming years to provide overweight and obese people with a greater incentive to lose weight. Maybe one day obese will have to pay more for public transport? Maybe overweight children should have compulsory after school fitness classes with health and nutrition advice? Should the government tell us how to lose weight*? How can government intervention be done in a way that does not punish but yet still encourages people to make a change for the better? It seems that at the moment the answer is to make life harder for the obese, or at least make them pay more.
*Visit MotleyHealth.com to learn how to do it without government aid!