City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. speaks at the opening ceremony of the new YMCA in the South Bronx on Thursday, October 27, 2022.
Photo provided by: DKC Public Relations Department
A lifelong South Bronx resident, I began my career as an administrative assistant for a medical service provider, then moved on to organizing medical issues for my surroundings in both the Bronx and Brooklyn. Eliminating health disparities and improving the health of neglected populations is a difficult but achievable task. My experience in the Bronx and the outreach program developed showed that community-level interventions, policy and system changes can improve health outcomes in communities across the country.
As representatives of some of the poorest urban congressional districts in the country, expanding policies related to quality health care and access for low-income and working families is a top priority for our work. So it’s heartbreaking that more than 25% of New York adults are obese. Obesity has been shown to be a significant risk factor for many chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and heart disease. The Bronx has an obesity rate of about 30%, the highest of the five boroughs that make up New York City, meaning it’s important to address the root causes of obesity in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. I am.
About 25 years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared obesity an epidemic. Since then, the disease has continued to worsen and thousands of American communities, particularly communities of color, have been ravaged by the disease. Rather than tackling this disease head-on, leaders in Washington continue to turn a blind eye, treating obesity as a personal choice rather than a national health crisis.
We can no longer avoid tackling the obesity problem. According to a study published by the National Institute on Aging in 2022, the obesity rate among adults over 65 has doubled since the 1990s, making it the second leading cause of preventable death in Japan. The number is estimated to be 400,000 annually.
Obesity not only impacts overall public health, but the costs of ignoring this epidemic are increasing by the day. One study estimated that total obesity-related government spending, including Medicaid and Medicare spending, was nearly $92 billion annually, or about 30% of Medicare spending. Overall, costs associated with obesity and overweight account for $1.72 trillion, or 9.3% of the U.S. gross domestic product.
One of the main reasons we continue to face this ongoing crisis is because Americans living with obesity do not receive the proper treatment, care, and support they need to combat this disease. . Although the CDC and the American Medical Association recognize obesity as a disease, too often society treats obesity as a personal choice and not as a treatable medical condition. Because of the stigma against obesity, individuals have to fight for themselves. To address this issue, regulations must be enacted to ensure patients have access to the treatments and resources they need, including anti-obesity drugs.
Treating obesity can reduce the incidence of related diseases and reduce health care costs. A new study from the University of California Schaefer Center for Health Policy and Economics finds that Medicare coverage of anti-obesity medications (AOMs) results in approximately $175 billion in Medicare cost offsets during the first 10 years of coverage. After a 30-year compensation period, the offset increases to $700 billion. When you combine the personal impact of AOM application with the potential savings for the health care system, you can no longer afford to wait.
Washington leaders have long worked to expand access to these and other treatments. Now is the time. We have ignored the obesity epidemic for too long, and we are now at a tipping point. We must use this moment to reinvest in the health care of our communities. We hope that Congressional leaders will work with the administration on updating Medicare coverage policies and make these medicines available through Medicare Part D to help millions of Americans who need access to life-saving medical care. You need to support people.
Rafael Salamanca Jr. is the 17th District Councilman representing the South Bronx.
For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.