Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Impressions on Governor Snyder’s Message re Health and Wellness; BMI Reporting?

For the full message delivered on September 14, go to: A Special Message from Governor Rick Snyder: Health and Wellness.

The message covers a lot of very important topics related to health and wellness:

  • Infant Mortality & Teen Pregnancy
  • Obesity, Nutrition, & Food Safety
  • Wellness Programs
  • Seniors
  • Oral Health
  • Tobacco Use
  • Access to Health Care
  • Veterans
  • Technology
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers
  • Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability (including autism)
  • Health Care Reform: The MI Health Marketplace (aka health insurance exchange)
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan
  • Persons covered dually by Medicare and Medicaid
  • Improved Governance: Reforming the Michigan Public Health Code (including hints he might be supportive of greater use of nurse practitioners to achieve greater access to and to control costs of health care, the objective of HB 4774 which I have co-sponsored)

This covers a lot of very important ground, but what seems to have caught the public’s attention the most is the request that doctors monitor and report the Body Mass Index (BMI) of children. To address this concern, Dick Posthumus, Senior Advisor to the Governor and former Lieutenant Governor, on September 15 shared this insight:

“There has been some misinformation and confusion on the segment of the Governor's Health and Wellness message concerning the tracking of BMI (body mass index).  Please read the information below and note why we used the BMI. Most of all, please note that the recording of information is completely voluntary.

Why measure BMI?

Michigan’s obesity epidemic costs our state’s economy literally billions of dollars a year.

  • In 2008, obesity-related health problems cost the state (and by extension, taxpayers) $3.1 billion.  If current trends continue, by 2018 we will have to spend approximately $12.5 billion.
  • The cost to the state’s economy is even higher when private sector expenses related to health issues are factored in.
  • Combined, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition is the 2nd leading cause of preventable death.

Michigan’s overweight and obesity problem is getting worse.

  • In 1995, 18 percent of Michigan residents were considered obese.  Today, it’s nearly 32 percent.
  • Two years ago, Michigan was the 10th fattest state in the nation.  Based on the most recent information available from 2010, we are now tied for 6th.
  • In total, more than two-thirds of Michigan residents are an unhealthy weight.
  • In Michigan, overweight and obese have become the new normal.

Under the governor’s proposal, BMI reporting is optional, not mandatory, and it is only for statistical purposes so the state can track population trends and the overall health of the state.

  • Information reported by doctors to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry is confidential.
  • The state already collects information such as immunization records, which it has done since 1998.  Before the state started tracking childhood immunization, Michigan had one of the worst immunization rates in the nation.  Today, it has one of the best.
  • Tracking BMI will help in the same way by allowing health professionals to study trends and getting the conversation started with parents.
  • In Arkansas, former Republican governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee required collecting BMI information.  Governor Snyder’s proposal is optional.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a reliable way of getting a snapshot of a person’s overall health.

  • Although BMI is not a perfect measure for all people (such as athletes who are much more fit and active than the general public) and it is only one factor out of many that should be considered, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control considers BMI a reasonable indicator of body fat and weight categories that may lead to health issues.

This isn’t about telling people what they can or can’t eat, or forcing parents to make their children put down the video game controller and go play outside. 

  • This is about tracking trends and getting the conversation started with doctors and parents.
  • Overweight children often turn into overweight adults who are more likely to suffer from chronic heart disease, stroke, hypertension, Type II diabetes, asthma, colon and breast cancer, joint and mobility issues and depression.
  • The governor is leading by example and has made his own stats available so the public can see his progress.  At 5’11” and 192 pounds, the governor has a BMI of 26.8 and is considered overweight.  He needs to lose 16 pounds to be in the healthy weight range.  Following his doctor’s advice, the governor has set a goal of losing 10 pounds as a first step to being healthy.”

This message will prompt a lot of work by legislators, department personnel, health care professionals, insurance companies and many members of the public. Let’s hope this results not only in a healthier Michigan, but also lower health care costs.

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