Jim Terry
September 8, 2011
The cost of obesity
By Jim Terry

A study conducted by researchers at Columbia University in New York and Oxford University in England was released a few days ago. The report said that by 2030 about half of all Americans will be obese. Current estimates claim approximately one third of Americans are obese. In raw numbers, this means an increase of obese Americans from ninety-nine million people to 164 million people, according to the report.

The researchers estimate the rise in obesity will cost an additional $66 billion per year to treat problems such as diabetes, strokes, heart disease and cancer.

When I read about the Columbia/Oxford study I recalled some recent experiences.

As I sat alone in my doctor's waiting room a few days ago the door flew open and a woman, probably in her early forties, wheeled in on one of those electric scooters frequently advertised on television. Bags containing books, her telephone, other personal items hung from the scooter.

Along with her and the scooter came the odor of cigarettes and a deep rattling cough. And her biceps were about the size of my thighs.

I once arraigned a four hundred plus pound defendant who couldn't be brought to my court from the county jail because the officer who served the court didn't have a vehicle large enough to transport the woman. Therefore, I went to the jail.

If the woman in the doc's office weighed less than four hundred pounds, it wasn't by much. I don't know the nature of her maladies, but I wondered how such a young, at least young appearing, woman could come to this condition and why she exacerbated it by smoking.

A couple of days later my wife and I went for lunch after church, as we often do, to a nearby place with a fantastic salad bar. As the restaurant filled with the after church crowd, I noticed a man a few tables from us who probably weighed-in at or around the four hundred pound mark. He was eating a Reuben sandwich with potato chips. He first dipped each chip into a small ramekin of what appeared to be Ranch dressing before eating it. In fairness to him, he also had a bowl of fresh salad. Although, it was awash in Ranch dressing. Of course, the dressing could have been a low-calorie type.

As I watched him eat, I asked my wife, who toiled in the commercial insurance industry for twenty years, if liability insurers inspect premises to be insured and if they require certain standards for furniture in a public place like a restaurant. Most of us don't consider the weight bearing capacity of the chair we are about to depend on when we sit in a restaurant, a doctor's office, at church, or perhaps in our homes.

It occurred to me that the increasing size of our population, per capita that is, has consequences beyond bad health, unless you consider collapsing furniture a health issue. I doubt a few years ago restaurateurs considered they would some day be feeding patrons who are the size of the cattle from which the steak was carved.

Speaking of collapsing furniture, earlier in the week I walked into a restroom in a hospital and was astounded to see a toilet crutch. I had never seen anything like this. Many commercial toilets are wall mounted, unlike the floor mounts most of us have in our homes. Because of, again the increasing size of Americans, the collapsing of wall mounted toilets in commercial buildings has spawned an industry which manufactures toilet supports.

One company which manufactures toilet crutches, or supports, says the following on its website:

    Toilet supports? Who cares? If you weigh 400 pounds or more you would care! Wall mounted toilets are only rated to hold 350 pounds before they break or pull out of the wall. We believe toilet supports should quickly be installed on every wall toilet in America. Every "Handicapped" restroom that uses a wall mounted toilet can now be made accessible for the Obese Disabled.

Some have estimated the cost of Obamacare at around $6 trillion over the first ten years. Who knows what the cost will be in 20 years? When we consider the $66 billion additional cost per year cited in the Columbia/Oxford study, it looks as if the cost of health care will, itself, will be classified as obese.

© Jim Terry

 

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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy@flash.net

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