American obesity rates have tripled since the 1960s and currently show no signs of slowing. Without widespread behavior change, it’s predicted that by 2030 half of the U.S. population will be obese. And with obesity comes poorer health for Americans and higher healthcare costs.
Today, one in every two Americans is either pre-diabetic or living with diabetes. It is an epidemic, and the federal government realizes that not dealing with it will cause a strain on the healthcare system, making it difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. In reaction to this ever growing issue, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has recognized the need for coverage of obesity counseling, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required health plans to cover screening and obesity counseling as a covered medical benefit, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has — for the first time in history — allowed Medicare to begin covering obesity screening and counseling.
While it is a step in the right direction, this is not a solution. Coverage removes barriers, however, it does not change behavior. The question for many employers remains: How can we change the behavior of employees in a way that delivers measurable and sustainable clinical results?
For the last decade, through Holmes Murphy’s clinical innovation laboratory, ACAP Health, employers in the Dallas area have attempted to create a healthier work environment reversing obesity.
In doing so, we have learned people feel like they have failed at diets, but the truth is, diets have failed them. There are so many fad diets out there that simply do not work. When it comes to people who have struggled with their weight, it’s not due to a lack of education or motivation. Ask anyone with weight struggles to recite the caloric content of a muffin and they will easily rattle off the data with the accuracy of a Google search. When it comes to the obesity epidemic, a lack of knowledge is not the issue.
The research also shows those who have struggled with weight think about losing it every single day. Twelve years ago, I lost almost half my body weight and I can personally attest to the reality of these facts — it’s not lack of education or motivation. The greatest motivation for a person with weight struggles is not waving carrot sticks into benefit plans, but the excitement of standing on a scale and winning.
Remember the stat I mentioned earlier — you know, the fact that one in two Americans is either pre-diabetic or living with diabetes? Participants, who have course-corrected using clinical solutions, have been able to lower health trends with a more than 50 percent reversal of metabolic syndrome. Solutions are out there and progress can be made if the correct course of action is implemented.
Wally Gomaa is the CEO of ACAP Health, a consulting company that provides programs that measurably decrease chronic disease in America.