Health Care

Obesity Epidemic Topic at Safety Council Meeting

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HOWLAND, Ohio – Obesity will soon surpass tobacco use among the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths globally, a primary care physician with ValleyCare Health System of Ohio told business leaders Wednesday.

“We really haven’t done a great job at dealing with this obesity epidemic,” said Dr. Vincent Marino, one of the speakers at a meeting of the Mahoning Valley Safety Council, held at Leo’s Ristorante.

Ohio, with an obesity rate of 30.4%, is ranked 16th in the country for the most obese population. Statistics illustrating the seriousness of the epidemic filled the PowerPoint presentation he shared during the program.

The main reason obesity is such a serious problem isn’t the weight but the various diseases and health issues that it brings, as well as financial problems, Marino said.

“Obesity leads to a lot of these chronic diseases that are very expensive to treat. The costs are just astronomical,” Marino said. “People have a hard time identifying the problems with obesity. It’s a serious medical problem that needs to be taken seriously.”

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer and “has been for decades,” he said. “It’s no big surprise that obesity can lead to heart disease,” he continued.

The event, attended by about 200 members, was meant to spark interest in workplace-based health and wellness programs, said Karen Stacey, executive director of leadership and safety programs at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, which manages the Mahoning Valley Safety Council.

Stacey participates in the Ohio wellness collaborative at the Regional Chamber.

“We have a goal to become more active and lose weight,” she related. “We trace our results and motivate each other. I think a lot of people need that type of healthy motivation in their workplace”

Motivating coworkers is something Betty Jane Panchik does on a daily basis. As director of WorkMed for ValleyCare, she has employees fill out health-related questionnaires so that she can focus on the treatment they need to improve their health.

“The surveys serve as an outline for treatment for each individual employee so that we know where the greatest need is,” Panchik said. “If they show potential signs of cardiovascular disease or diabetes we are able to focus in those areas and prevent them.”

When employees get healthy, it will not only impact them at their workplace but it will help them live better lives as a whole, she explained.

“It really is a win-win situation for everybody,” she said. “The employee lives a healthier life, they’re more productive and they pay less premiums for health care.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, household health insurance premiums have gone up by more than $3,000 since 2010 to an annual rate of nearly $16,800 as of January 2015.

Premiums for the employers are similarly affected, Panchik said. “It affects the employers’ bottom line because every time someone uses their health insurance, their claims experience goes up and they are charged a higher premium the following year,” she said.

By investing in the health of their employees, most employers can see a return of $3 for every dollar spent, Panchik said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.