Every day, we are bombarded with around 3,000 different messages from a variety of media sources. These sources tell us why we need the quadruple bacon burger or what products we need to “fulfill” our lives. In a time when companies spend millions of dollars telling you what to do, I am going to add to the noise to tell you why you should think health first.
Our history is filled with hardworking, middle-class people who have had to fight for every penny they earned. If you are one of these people, concerned about how much the government spends, this is why you should have health on the mind: It is well known that the United States spends the most in the world per person on health care. In fact, 17.7 percent of our GDP goes to paying for that health care.
I know what you are thinking. If we are spending that much, can we just stop? No. The current fight in health care is centered on chronic diseases. These diseases are long-lasting conditions that can be treated but not cured. They are responsible for seven out of 10 deaths in the U.S., and are the leading cause of disability as well.
From an economic standpoint, chronic diseases cost our country $4.2 trillion every year. That’s enough to pay 18 million teachers’ salaries, buy 42 million cars, purchase 5.6 million homes and pay 56.8 million U.S. Army privates.
It’s an incredible amount of money, but here is the killer statistic: manys chronic diseases are 100 percent preventable, and we could avoid this cost if we tried. With well over 50 percent of the country’s residents having at least one chronic disease, even decreasing chronic diseases by 25 percent would have an economic impact in the high billions. If economics drives your focus, you need to focus on improving health.
Perhaps you aren’t as concerned about the economics of health care. You just want to make sure you and your family are healthy, and that’s that. One of the most jarring and potentially upsetting facts of health affects every family in America.
Due to chronic disease and lifestyle factors, your kids will be the first generation in 200 years to have a lower life expectancy than yours. We would do anything for our kids, but not allowing them the opportunity to live longer, and healthier, is beyond words.
By addressing the high number of people who who are obese/overweight alone, we could reverse this trend. With chronic disease becoming the norm for older adults, life expectancy is slowing rather than keeping up with other developed nations. Our residents lose, on average, nearly two years of life per chronic disease that they enter retirement age with, and with chronic diseases expected to rise by 42 percent by 2023, our life expectancy could decrease as a nation.
It doesn’t matter from what perspective you approach the world. Life should be the standard we set for all people. Of all the things that get attention in this world, good health is the only thing that can give you a resource that is priceless. Make health a priority in your community. Let’s be known as the generation that reversed the trend, not contributed to it.
Ray Dlugolecki is a health educator for the Cass County Health Department.