Saturday, November 01, 2014

Increased health insurance helps combat fast food frenzy

9/4/2013

Does access to health insurance improve an individual’s health? Without a doubt it can, particularly if the absence of insurance means few or zero trips to the doctor for preventative care check-ups. The presence of insurance might prompt someone to go the doctor to check out an ailment rather than postponing diagnosis and treatment of symptoms, which might otherwise lead to worse problems.

Obesity is among many health problems facing this area, as well as our state and nation. Obesity leads to numerous other health problems including diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases. Those health problems are expensive to treat and without treatment can lead to premature death. A person’s untimely death can be brutal on families, communities, employers and society — that’s why it might be comforting to some that the number of Kansans without insurance is going down.

Does access to health insurance improve an individual’s health? Without a doubt it can, particularly if the absence of insurance means few or zero trips to the doctor for preventative care check-ups. The presence of insurance might prompt someone to go the doctor to check out an ailment rather than postponing diagnosis and treatment of symptoms, which might otherwise lead to worse problems.

Obesity is among many health problems facing this area, as well as our state and nation. Obesity leads to numerous other health problems including diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases. Those health problems are expensive to treat and without treatment can lead to premature death. A person’s untimely death can be brutal on families, communities, employers and society — that’s why it might be comforting to some that the number of Kansans without insurance is going down.

The percent of uninsured Kansans dropped from 15.8 percent in 2010 to 14.4 percent in 2011, according to numbers recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. That means more than 31,500 additional Kansans are insured and hopefully on the path to being healthier too. Of course, insurance alone doesn’t ensure good health. That challenge is up to the individual and the choices he or she makes. Good choices on what food and how much to eat, how much and what type of exercise to do, how much sleep to get and other lifestyle choices, such as whether or how much to smoke, drink alcoholic beverages or partake in other risky behaviors also have a significant influence on someone’s health.

Today’s Herald features a story on Ottawa’s high number of fast food restaurants. Ottawa has more than twice as high a percentage of fast food restaurants — 52 percent — than the national average of 27 percent. Those numbers mirror the higher incidence of obesity here too with 34 percent adult obesity in Franklin County, compared to 30 percent at the state level and 25 percent nationally. Combine those fast food options with Americans’ more sedentary lifestyles — another prickly behavior inducing poorer health — and an undesirable outcome is likely.

A love of fast food doesn’t have to equate to obesity if consumers are careful about how often and in what quantities they consume it or any other food. Combining exercise with fast food — such as walking to those destinations rather than driving to them — could help establish better lifestyle habits that pay dividends of a longer and healthier life. A more healthful diet, increased physical activity, along with adequate sleep, can lead to a more healthful life.

Having insurance might improve people’s inclination to visit a physician who, in turn, can help establish the criteria someone needs to set new benchmarks in each of those behavior areas to improve overall health.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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