Eat Now, Pay Later. But Who Is Paying and for What? Police the Potato Chips!

The Huffington Post—September 2, 2009

by Helene Pavlov, MD, FACR
Radiologist-in-Chief
Hospital for Special Surgery

A few weeks ago I was leisurely sitting on the beach with my husband and daughter. A family of five was sitting nearby. They organized their beach chairs, got out the kids' shovels and pails, arranged their umbrella, and then the mom distributed a bag of chips to each family member. Not the small bags that you get when ordering a sandwich, but the big, full-sized, family bags.

Immediately, they each sat down and started chomping away. The father, mother, and what I perceived to be an aunt or close family friend, and their two little girls (approximately 2 and 6 years old) were all obese - not overweight, but morbidly obese.

Our society promotes overeating and obesity, and the low price of salty, fatty foods encourages unhealthy eating habits.

As a radiologist, I am aware of the special issues an obese patient requires for an imaging examination. Larger patients are more difficult to position for their image and there are weight restrictions on x-ray, CT and MR tables, limiting certain examinations that may be indicated. During an interventional radiology procedure, image quality may be compromised for the overweight patient and larger needles and advanced imaging techniques may be required. These factors make an otherwise simple examination more difficult, longer and more costly.

An article in The New York Times claims that obese Americans spend about $1,429 (or 42%) more on health care each year compared to the roughly $3,400 spent on normal-weight Americans. Better education and a mechanism for enforcement are needed.

All things that are considered excessive cost consumers more money. Applying this to obesity, perhaps more can be done.

Maybe the government should consider subsidizing healthy food, which may result in the cost of unhealthy food exceeding that of fruits and vegetables. Similar to the "going green" campaign, we can further encourage a "going healthy" campaign, reinforcing the health hazards of fats, salts and sugar, while emphasizing the importance of portion control to our younger generation. Just a little food for thought - with no calories!

Read the full story at huffingtonpost.com.

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