Obesity to blame for runaway health costs

I am subscribed to Dr. John McDougall’s newsletter. He is an American medical doctor whose own illnesses caused him to seek out a healthy diet; his discoveries in turn led to his lifelong mission of providing a starch based, vegan diet for maximum health.

I am subscribed to Dr. John McDougall’s newsletter. He is an American medical doctor whose own illnesses caused him to seek out a healthy diet; his discoveries in turn led to his lifelong mission of providing a starch based, vegan diet for maximum health. He offers a ton of free advice that has reportedly saved the lives of thousands.

In his most recent newsletter, the good doctor describes how he tried to get his diet accredited as part of a treatment program paid for by health insurance companies.

“I provided research on how diet would stop chest pain (angina) in people with coronary artery disease and reverse their underlying atherosclerosis. . . . The financial figures showed diet-therapy in our residential program would cost $5,000 versus bypass surgery at $45,000 (if all went well). I expected a favourable response from the representatives of these companies.

“The first reply was from a claims manager: ‘We’re not interested; this is not the kind of program we can include in our coverage . . . by your methods you have to get the patients’ co-operation; patients must change their diets, and I don’t believe they will. For the bypass surgeon to stop the chest pains all he has to do is get the patient to lie down on the operating room table. No will power necessary.’ ”

No will power necessary.

He’s talking about you and me.

I have somehow accumulated a roll of flesh around my middle that belongs to someone else. I certainly never put it there.

At least I don’t remember being responsible for its creation.

Yet this extra burden will impact on my knees by exerting three to six times the stress for every extra pound overweight.

Do you think in a few years I will need knee replacement surgery, just because of that bag of chips, the beer and pizza and that Mars bar I stuffed down (not to mention those huge platters of delicious restaurant food filled with salt and sugar! Of course I cleaned the plate!)? Yes! And do you want to pay for my knee replacements? Probably not. Just like I don’t want to pay for yours.

On Father’s Day we took my husband out to dine at a lovely local restaurant.

We were surrounded by very large people — most of them the same medium build as ourselves, but probably 70 per cent of our fellow diners were bundled up in layers of fat that resembled downfilled jackets.

They were huge.

I’m sure if you’d ask any of these people about the state of health care in the province, they would have something to say about the new super board. But would they have anything to say about themselves?

Yet obesity is the No. 1 creator of chronic disorders that cost the system a fortune.

By extension, fat also leads to hip and knee replacements. Those joints were not designed by the creator to carry double and triple the burden. Yet our chubby fellow dinners ordered massive meals.

Here’s what happened to MacDougall as he continued to press to get his simple, healthy eating regime as part of the paid for health services.

“We went back and forth for a few more minutes and then he made his position irrefutably clear to me. ‘You don’t get it, McDougall, you don’t understand the business. We take a piece of the pie and the bigger the pie the more we get.’ ”

An estimated 30 per cent of the premiums collected from the insured, their employers, and the taxpayers go to administrative costs, including the salary of these insurance company employees who were denying payment for the McDougall Program.

Alberta’s health super board is recutting the Alberta pie.

Sickness is the big business of “health” care. Lots of jobs and profit margins are attached to chronic disorders caused by obesity.

With the obvious move toward private health services, soon many more people will have a vested interest in keeping you and me fat and unhealthy.

Why be their cash cow? Get fit, eat right and most of you will rarely need a doctor or hospital. McDougall’s plans (and those of others) are simply based on 20 minutes of exercise a day, eating more plants and a complete reduction of salts, sugars and fats.

Real action for real health care begins with you.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.

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