Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obesity: The Emerging Role of Disease Management and An Important Opinion Piece in JAMA

Good news. The DMAA has established an Obesity Resource Center. There are links to useful consumer information, links to a literature search engine preloaded with the term obesity, links to information that employers would find useful and other goodies.

There is also a link to the newly released DMAA Obesity Toolkit. The Disease Management Care Blog would like to immodestly point out that it was involved in its formulation. In it's humble opinion, the .xls spreadsheet that allows insurers to load assumptions into an actuarially sound calculator is a neat tool. Depending on what is covered, how it's paid for and what utilization patterns are likely, users can price the insurance cost of covering obesity-related services in a benefit rider. Very cool.

And while we're on the weighty topic of obesity, the Oct 15 issue of JAMA has come out with a provocative article on the food industry's inability to curb its insatiable appetite for profits. The authors, Drs. David Ludwig and Marion Nestle, describe a glutinous pattern of underhanded public relations that is designed to deflect criticism over the avarcious marketing aimed at getting consumers to eat more high profit-margin, calorie-dense, processed and waist expanding food.

The authors note that cars are responsible for a certain frequency of injury and premature death, yet we don't expect car manufacturers to regulate their own industry. Instead, the government uses a blend of regulations, taxes, mandates, incentives and the threat of being hauled up before a Committee of Congress to shape the industry. The FTC, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the FDA have the means to deliver many of these readily available tools. Given the conflict of interest between maximizing shareholder value versus the public health burden of obesity, the authors call for these government organs plus academia and public health advocates to rigorously apply the appropriate checks and balances.

While the DMCB wishes the authors had mentioned the role of disease management organizations along with academia and public health, it will forgive them. It is also generally suspicious of government's ability to intelligently regulate, but it recognizes that the authors make a good point.

The DMCB thinks it would be neat if this article were posted on the DMAA Obesity Resource Center. It's.... good food for thought.

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