Archive for October, 2009

It's time for a change

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Many of us and lots of our kids and grandkids aren't leading a healthy lifestyle. We eat too much, especially eating the "wrong things," foods with sugar and fats. We shop for convenience and eat on the run. We need more exercise than our busy lifestyles seem to allow and we need to eat simpler, healthier food. There are ways to do this, but they require will power or perhaps "won't power" is a better term. When I look at the medical literature, the generations to come may live shorter lives, not longer ones unless they make some significant changes in their lifestyle choices. It's time to face the facts and for those of us who are parents and grandparents to set examples. Our kids don't always seem to hear what we say, but they certainly see what we do.

Where are we compared to the rest of the world?

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Today (October 27, 2009), I was reading a section of the Wall Street Journal titled “Innovations in Delivering Health Care." The concepts were fascinating, some of them sounded very familiar to me. The Veteran’s Administration’s system-wide electronic medical record was a few steps beyond, but somewhat similar to the Department of Defense’s Composite Healthcare System I worked on as a hospital commander in the late 1980s and as a medical center commander in the early 1990s. I read a blog and an online article suggesting that the VA and DOD systems may merge soon and I’m all for that.

Then I turned the page and saw a section called “Annual Checkup.” U.S. performance on nineteen measures of health care was compared to that of the other members (29 of them) of the OECD, the Organization for Economic development and Cooperation, in other words, the group of industrialized nations that have joined this Paris-based entity since its inception in 1961.

The U.S. was at the top in health spending per capita ($7,290 vs. a mean of $2,964), but our life expectancy at birth was less than the mean (78.1 years vs. 79.0) and well under Japan’s 82.6 years. The key, I think lay not in our tobacco consumption (15.4% of our population are daily smokers vs. an OECD mean of 23.3%). We’ve done fairly well in that arena.

The real issue is obesity. Here we clearly led the pack with an amazing 34.3% of our population being obese, vs. an OECD average of 15.1% and, tellingly, a Japanese figure of 3.4%. Here’s where the lifespan shows up, I thought immediately. Fat equals fatality came to mind.