Most people recognize the increasing healthcare costs associated with the epidemic of chronic illness, however, we don’t often discuss the broader implications. Could this be the defining issue of our times?
Every year in America the management of chronic illness results in billions of dollars in healthcare expenditures:
- Asthma = $56 B a year
- Autism = $268 B a year
- Obesity = $190 B a year
- Food Allergies = $25 B a year
- ADHD = $100 B a year
- Autoimmune Conditions = $100 B a year
What’s more, individual families are spending much more money managing these conditions on their own including:
- Specialized care and therapies not reimbursed by health insurance
- Special education needs not provided by school systems
- More expensive “safe” foods for families with special dietary needs
- Alternative therapies
- Nutritional supplementation
The Future of Our Children
If 1 in 2 children are currently diagnosed with a chronic condition, what will their future look like? What will the next generation look like? Will all children be chronically ill? Who will be the athletes? Who will be the firefighters? Who will be well enough to solve the problems of the future?
The Future of Families
With rising infertility rates, and a disproportionate number of boys being impacted by chronic illness, the future of the family in America is threatened.
What About Our Boys?
Our boys are in trouble. Neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and ADHD disproportionally affect boys more than girls. Autism affects boys five times more than girls. ADHD/ADD affects boys 4 times more than girls.
Projected rate of autism based on continuation of existing 13% annual growth
If only 17% of adults with autism are able to live independently, what does this mean for their ability to get jobs, have families, and engage in society?
Will this leave a disproportionate burden on women to carry the responsibilities of society?
Falling Fertility Rates
Everyone knows a couple (or more!) that has experienced difficulty getting or staying pregnant. There is evidence indicating that infertility is related to the “total load,” or total body burden that we each carry.
While increasing rates of chronic illness may seem like just a health care issue, it threatens our national security. In 2010, Retired Generals, Admirals and Civilian Military Leaders put out a prescient warning in a report titled: “Too Fat To Fight.”
“As retired Generals, Admirals, and other senior leaders of the United States Armed Forces, we know firsthand that national security must be America’s top priority. Our organization recently released a report citing Department of Defense data indicating that an alarming 75 percent of all young Americans 17 to 24 years of age are unable to join the military because they failed to graduate from high school, have criminal records, or are physically unfit.”
“When weight problems are combined with educational deficits, criminal records, and other disqualifiers such as asthma or drug abuse, 75 percent of Americans 17 to 24 years old are unable to join the military for one or more reasons. The military will need to have more fit young men and women if it is going to find enough recruits with the excellent qualifications needed for a modern military”
This trajectory is unsustainable. The economic, social, and human costs are just too great for it to continue.