Guest Column: Prevention key to health care reform

August 10, 2009
by Dr. Alvin D. Jackson
Mansfield News Journal

In 2008, the United States spent nearly 17 percent of its total economy -- that's more than $2 trillion -- on health care, yet 46 million Americans remain uninsured. While this is a staggering statistic, it's important to remember, as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has correctly pointed out, that seeing a doctor has little to do with staying well.

In fact, preventable conditions and addictions such as obesity and smoking put millions of Americans at risk for preventable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

In my home state of Ohio, where I serve as director of health, these risk factors are prevalent. Nearly one-quarter, 23.4 percent, of Ohio adults are cigarette smokers; 36.2 percent are overweight, with a body mass index between 25 and 29.9; and 26.5 percent are obese, with a BMI of 30 or higher. An ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.

And on July 1, the Trust for America's Health issued a report that called Ohio the 10th-fattest state in the nation, with 63.6 percent of the population either overweight or obese.

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