This past week was very typical in my office. When people are interested in any of our programs, I encourage them to come in for a free 20 minute consultation to make sure we are on the same page in terms of what is involved in succeeding in order to attain their goals in health and weight loss. A large percentage of people that come and speak to us do sign up and start the program, but a lot of people don’t. Their reasons vary as to why they choose not to pursue a program but this past week, three of the people who came in last week chose not to do the program because they perceived the program as too expensive. I am the last person to look into someone else’s pockets and judge what they do with their money, but for each one of these people, their health is at risk and it seemed that paying some money would bring great benefit to their overall health and quality of life.
Let’s have a little lesson in basic economics. I you have $50 and you enter a store that sells 4 items, you have some choices to make. One item cost $50, one cost $25 and one cost $10 and one cost $5. You can use the $50 to buy one $50 item, or 2 $25 items, or 5 $10 items or some combination of several items. What I decide to do with that $50 and why I make the choices I make is really the basics of economics. Everyone has some type of budget they live on and some have more money and some less, but what we sometimes forget is that decisions with money that might seem prudent in the short term, may affect me negatively in the long term.
When you don’t have my health, you tend not to function well. It effects everything you do from being able to get up in the morning and daven, to going to work, learning, doing Chesed, visiting your children, and it plays into general mood. Let’s look at the dollars and cents involved in being healthy and having a good quality of life.
A number of year ago, researchers at George Washington University took the expense equation for health a step higher. They added in things such as employee sick days, lost productivity, even the need for extra gasoline – and calculated that the annual cost of being obese is $4,879 for a woman and $2,646 for a man. Now, if you are only overweight, the cost is less — $524 for women and $432 for men. And why the difference between the genders? Studies suggest larger women earn less than skinnier women, while wages don’t differ when men pack on the pounds – a big surprise, said study co-author and health policy professor Christine Ferguson.
Obesity is linked to earlier death. While that’s not something people usually consider a pocketbook issue, the report did factor in the economic value of lost life. That brought women’s annual obesity costs up to $8,365, and men’s to $6,518.
In addition to the direct costs of being overweight and obese, let’s look at a person with heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, and multiple medications are often needed to control symptoms and risk factors. In a recent study following 104 people with ischemic heart disease, average monthly costs were $104.77 for cardiac medications and $115.54 for non-cardiac medications, for a total of $220.31. In addition, the cost of heart disease and stroke in the United States was $368 billion in 2004, including health care expenditures and lost productivity from disability and death.
If you are an employer, you may want to insist that your employees exercise. In 1995, Nicolaas Pronk, director of HealthPartners’ Center for Health Promotion, surveyed nearly 6,000 HealthPartners members over age 40 about their lifestyle and health status, and then looked at 18 months’ worth of their medical claims. In a report based on that data, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), he compared people with poor habits to those with healthy ones and found that:
- Those who engaged in some kind of physical activity at least once a week cost the company 4.7% less than those who are sedentary.
- Smokers cost the company 18% more than nonsmokers.
- Each unit increase in body mass index (a measure of body fat) raised costs by 1.9%.
Those who suffered from the chronic illnesses that are often the result of unhealthy lifestyles – particularly diabetes and heart disease – were the costliest of all. Diabetics cost 137% more than non-diabetics, and those with heart disease cost 150% more than those without, the study found.
Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are escalating global epidemics that warrant increased attention by physicians and other health care professionals. These linked conditions are responsible for an enormous burden of chronic disease, impaired physical function and quality of life, at least 300,000 premature deaths, and at least $90 billion in direct health care costs annually in the United States alone. Couple all this with the rising premiums for solid, comprehensive health insurance and it becomes obvious that it pays to work out, eat properly and be healthy.
A number of years ago, I worked with a client who we can definitely say fell into the category of not having any extra money, but he was overweight and had failed on other programs. He also is someone who tracked his money as well as his food. That is, every expenditure was written down and income was accounted for. One day, he called me all excited. He did the math and realized that the amount of money he was paying me for the program was basically the amount of money he was already saving in one year just from eating differently and therefore, shopping differently. He was only buying what he needed and not more. He was no longer buying expensive junk food.
Another person I worked with used to always stop on her way to just about anywhere (many times after exercising) and would get an ice coffee. This could be 5-6 days a week. Not only were the extra calories not helping her, she realized that the amount she was spending a year on ice coffee could easily pay for a day and night’s vacation away. Now couple all this with the future health expenses he might potentially have had if he hadn’t invested in the program
Yes – it CAN be costly to take on a trainer, join a health club or enroll in a program like 10 Weeks to Health, but it’s definitely money well spent. Investing in staying in shape and improving your overall lifestyle habits may, in the long run, be less costly to your health AND to your wallet. Making your health enough of an economic priority will save you money in the long run and will “add hours to your day, days to your yea, and years to your life.