An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Health Care
Grades aren’t generally considered to be matters of life and death, but there is at least one report card that can have grave implications for millions of us. Since 1998, Prevention Partners, a Chapel Hill-based nonprofit devoted to addressing the leading causes of preventable diseases, has issued an annual North Carolina Prevention Report Card, and this year – well, let’s just say there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Prevention Partners’ most recent grades for North Carolina in four major health categories – tobacco, nutrition, physical activity and obesity – are considerably south of mediocre.
For a state with an extensive tobacco history, earning a C for tobacco use may seem almost respectable. But the numbers tell a different story. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, we spend $3.81 billion every year on tobacco-related health care in North Carolina – and there is another $4.24 billion in smoking-caused productivity losses in our state. That $8 billion each year isn’t imaginary, it’s real money that we’re all paying.
Looking to stop smoking? BCBSNC customers can register at our BlueConnect dashboard and click on the Wellness tab for information on our Healthy Outcomes smoking cessation resources, including the six-week “Smoke Free” online Healthy Living Program. North Carolina residents who aren’t BCBSNC customers can visit the state’s Department of Health and Human Services QuitlineNC smoking cessation website.
This is where things go from debatably average to just plain awful. Only 12.3 percent of adults in North Carolina eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Unfortunately, that’s nowhere near enough to pull the other 87.7 percent of us upward on the grading curve. On the other hand, our nutrition has hit rock bottom, so there’s nowhere to go but up.
Depending on your plan, BCBSNC covers up to six free visits to a dietitian – no co-pay, no co-insurance, no deductible for any diagnosis. Just enroll in our Member Health Partnership Program by calling (800) 218-5295 before your first appointment.
BCBSNC customers can use our BlueConnect member dashboard to can find a range of tools to help improve nutritional and overall health.
The state’s Nutrition Services Branch provides additional resources about sound nutrition habits for infants, children and women in their child-bearing years. Eat Smart, More More NC is another great source of information on nutrition and wellness for all North Carolinians.
Physical Activity: D
This should be the simplest grade to improve – all we have to do is get off the couch and go do something fun. Our blog includes a series of posts on North Carolina hiking trails that are perfect for getting in shape, spending time with family and friends, and appreciating the unique beauty of our state.
We sponsor a number of opportunities to help all of our state’s residents live more active lives: the Blue Loop hiking/biking trail at the NC Museum of Art Park in Raleigh; the 15-mile Gary Shell Cross-City Trail in Wilmington; the B Cycle bike-share program, offering 200 bicycles at 20 rental stations in Uptown Charlotte; the outdoor Walk of the Week at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham.
Learn more about our GO NC! – Get Outside, North Carolina – initiative.
Given our scores for nutrition and physical activity, this F isn’t so surprising. According to the Centers for Disease Control, two out of every three adults and more than a quarter of high school students in our state are overweight or obese; nearly 16% of children aged 2-5 are already obese. In 2015, North Carolina will spend $18 billion on obesity-related health care. That’s an enormous cost in dollars and in quality of life.
We’re committed to helping our customers meet their fitness goals. If you haven’t already, visit our BlueConnect dashboard to find out how our customers can get discounts for healthy products and services like gym memberships.
If you’re not a BCBSNC customer, there are a number of agencies offering free online information about how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight:
- Obesity Action Coalition
- Obesity Help
- UNC-Chapel Hill Health Sciences Library’s NC Health Info
- North Carolina Alliance of YMCAs
- The Support Center-NC
These poor marks should concern each of us individually, but there are also serious consequences for us collectively. When the unhealthy outnumber the healthy, health care costs rise for everyone. We are truly all in this together. Take advantage of the health and wellness offerings available to you. With a little effort, we’ll see a report card we can truly be proud of.