Program Note: Dr. Toby Cosgrove will be on the show to talk about obesity and the need to give doctors nationwide incentives for making people healthier. Tune in TONIGHT on AC360° 10p ET
Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, M.D.
President and CEO, Cleveland Clinic
As a heart surgeon for 34 years, I feel passionately about America’s health and the tremendous burden of disease. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of holding heart and lung tissue that has been destroyed by smoking and other poor lifestyle choices. This saddens me.
The nation’s healthcare system is at its breaking point. In 2008, U.S. healthcare spending reached $2.4 trillion. Seventy percent of this cost results from treating chronic diseases, and behavior causes many of these. An astounding 40 percent of the premature deaths in the U.S. are secondary to behavior, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating habits and tobacco use.
This disease burden needs to be attacked through innovative measures. We need to provide the proper incentives to encourage personal responsibility for maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. It should be our patriotic duty to take care of ourselves.
Fifty years ago, we learned that smoking kills. It’s taken us that long to have a significant impact on this killer, and yet, 20 percent still smoke. We have just begun to address the other behaviors weighing on our system. We can’t wait another 50 years to change the trajectory of this enormous human and economic drain on our nation.
Since the 1970s, the obesity rate in the United States has doubled. It accounts for 10 percent of our country’s healthcare costs. Obesity is associated with 20 times the incidence of diabetes and twice the amount of heart disease. Obesity puts 20 years on a person’s life and escalates the diseases they’ll struggle with over their lifetime.
As President and CEO of Cleveland Clinic for the last five years, I’ve tried to lead by example. Our hospitals are smoke free. We offer free smoking cessation programs to current employees and because we believe that healthcare organizations need to model appropriate behavior, we no longer hire smokers. More than 150 employees have signed up to quit smoking. We have banned trans fats from our menus and thousands take advantage of free gym memberships and Weight Watchers programs. They’ve lost about 100,000 pounds. We need to attack obesity as a disease, not obese patients.
We need to give doctors nationwide incentives for making people healthier. They should be rewarded for teaching wellness and prevention measures to their patients and reintroducing education into the healthcare system. It’s important that we move from delivering “sick” care to “health” care.
My goal is to bring awareness to an epidemic that is affecting the quality of life of two-thirds of Americans. I don’t want to see surgeons operating on disease that could have been prevented.
It’s my hope that if we get the incentives right, that we can unite against the preventable diseases that are bankrupting our country, our families and our futures.
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