The combination of an aging work force, the growing obesity epidemic and the high cost of medical care "could result in an epidemic of preventable illness that might cripple [the Boston region's] economy," according to a study released Thursday by New England Health Care Institute and The Boston Foundation, the Boston Globe reports.

The report shows that high cost of living has resulted in many residents ages 34 to 44 to leave the state, meaning the work force is aging while population growth stagnates. A large portion of the state's new workers are older workers and immigrants, who are more likely to develop chronic illnesses, including obesity and associated conditions such as heart disease and hypertension. Adult obesity in Massachusetts doubled from 10% of the population in 1990 to 20% in 2005, according to the state Department of Public Health.

An increase in preventable conditions would cause health care costs and premiums to rise, making it difficult for the state's insurers to compete with those in other states, the Globe reports. In addition, the report suggests that as chronic diseases become more prevalent, the government will be forced to divert funds and other resources from preventive programs to those treating existing conditions.

Wendy Everett, president of NEHCI, said, "The message of the report is, here we are in paradise, with the best teaching hospitals and physicians and the lowest number of uninsured of any state in the country, and a creative and ambitious health reform program, but if we don't act now, our economy is going to be dead in the water." State HHS Secretary JudyAnn Bigby "downplayed" a potential crisis, saying that the increase in chronic illnesses shown in the report could be an indication of earlier diagnoses of conditions, the Globe reports. She added, "I don't see anything in this report that hasn't been known. The report makes very clear that Massachusetts is one of the healthiest states in the nation" (Krasner, Boston Globe, 6/14).

The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.

"Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

Tag Cloud