Last month the new director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) stirred up the debate on healthcare in the Palmetto State. Catherine Templeton said that she had a “hallelujah moment” in talking with health experts when she realized that obesity was an important contributor to numerous health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
If we could prevent obesity, she reasoned, we could make South Carolinians healthier and reduce the state’s spending on Medicaid.
No one disputes her conclusion and the healthcare professionals, who have worked on the obesity problem for decades, appreciate the attention Ms. Templeton has given the issue. The business community also appreciates efforts to make our workforce healthier and more productive.
There aren’t too many states (actually only 3—“thank God for” Mississippi, West Virginia and Alabama) that have a higher adult obesity rate than South Carolina’s 31.5 percent.
The “SWAT team” analogy gives the impression that the obesity problem can be quickly corrected with a concentrated effort in a specific geographic area in a relatively short period of time. No one in the healthcare community believes that. Obesity is a systemic problem with numerous determinants not likely to be corrected with some one-time surgery.
With Ms. Templeton’s newly found interest in obesity within hot spots around the state, I can see Governor Nikki Haley’s administration coalescing around obesity SWAT teams as a more effective and less costly approach to improving health than expanding Medicaid to make healthcare available to 500,000 working poor throughout our state.
However, there is no disagreement that obesity is a driving force in rising healthcare costs. And one component of the remedy is to encourage personal responsibility. To the degree that it is possibly, people who need or want to lose weight should make better choices in their diet. Both Governor Haley and Mr. Keck have pointed out the need for personal responsibility in one’s health. DHEC board member Kenyon Wells is quoted as saying in regard to obesity, “It is hard to get people to change. We can throw as much as we can at it, but it stills gets down to personal values and personal responsibilities.”
One of the provisions of Obamacare addresses this issue.
Governor Haley, Ms. Templeton and Mr. Keck should welcome this new nutritional transparency to encourage more personal responsibility in fighting obesity. But they apparently will need to work on at least one member of our Congressional delegation.
In May Representative Tim Scott formed a bipartisan Congressional Regulatory Review Caucus along with Representative Loretta Sanchez of California. Yesterday was the first briefing for this caucus and the topic was the nutritional labeling requirements in Obamacare.
Naturally since this calorie transparency was associated with the President, Mr. Scott was against it. Freedom to eat what you want without concern for nutrition appeared to be Mr. Scott’s philosophy.
But Mr. Scott is doing himself (and his body) a disservice by not checking out the calories. Instead of the five powdered donuts at 1700 calories, he could have had 5 glazed donuts at only 1300 calories or 6 ½ glazed for the same 1700 calories. And we all know that glazed taste better than powdered.
If Mr. Scott would look at nutritional information as the way to make better tasty calorie choices instead of a tool to fight obesity, maybe we can win his stomach if not his brain.