High Healthcare Costs Linked to Preventable Diseases - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

NEWS_HLTHdisparitySmoking, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise are contributing to an epidemic of chronic, preventable diseases that are alarming for the future health of the nation and for African Americans in particular, according to a new report.

The United States currently spends more per capita than any other nation on healthcare, including $1.5 trillion in medical costs associated with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, according to a report from the United Health Foundation released Tuesday. These diseases are said to have a direct link to smoking and obesity, the nation’s two largest national risk factors.

“We know that the results and the consequences of these [preventable diseases] will show themselves in … ultimately a worsening of health disparities and a shortening of lifespan,” says Dr. Reed Tuckson, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group.

An analysis of the study shows that America now spends $80 billion in direct healthcare costs associated with obesity. At this rate, obesity will add nearly $344 billion to the nation’s annual healthcare costs by 2018 and account for more than 21% of healthcare spending.

“This is not only incompatible with meaningful survival it is incompatible with affordability for healthcare,” says Dr. Tuckson.

Obesity has increased nearly 130% since the first edition of the report, “America’s Health Rankings,” was issued 20 years ago. While 27% of the population is currently obese, almost 37% of African Americans are obese. In fact, the prevalence of obesity among African Americans increased by 42% in the past 10 years, according to the report.

The report also provides an annual ranking of the healthiness of each state. Ohio ranked No. 1 as the state with the highest prevalence of obesity (43.1%) among African Americans compared with whites in the state (27.7%), and Virginia led the country in the incidences of diabetes among African Americans (14.9%) compared with 7% of whites.

Because obesity plays such a huge part in other chronic illnesses and since the prevalence of obesity among African Americans is so high, then African Americans will carry a higher burden of the economic costs of these illnesses and it will significantly affect the stability of the black family, Dr. Tuckson says.

The prevalence of smoking, the other risk factor that results in preventable chronic diseases, decreased among African Americans by 7% in the past 10 years. Yet, African Americans still smoke at a higher rate than the national average.

The United Health Foundation will publish tips, tools and programs online, including a searchable database that can be used to find out how each state – and the nation – rates now compared to 20 years ago; and an obesity cost calculator that highlights current national and state-specific costs of obesity and projects future costs.

The foundation, which published the findings in partnership with the American Public Health Association, and the Partnership for Prevention, hope individuals, elected officials, healthcare professionals, employers, and communities use the findings to improve the health of American citizens by implementing methods of prevention.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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