I can think of few health care issues that would benefit more from trustee support than our nation's obesity crisis. It doesn't take a medical degree or research of any kind to see that we are a society growing in the wrong direction — wider. To put some numbers to the problem: more than one-third of adults and 17 percent of children were obese in 2009–2010, according to a January brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. And in September, the Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released their annual "F as in Fat" report, which this time forecasts 2030 adult obesity rates if current trends continue unchecked. Every state could have an adult obesity rate above 44 percent in 18 years.
Here's the scariest part. "F as in Fat" predicts more than 6 million new cases of type 2 diabetes, 5 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of cancer by 2030. Treatment costs for these preventable diseases will increase by $48 billion to $66 billion per year in 2030. As hospitals take on growing accountability for their communities' health, much of that cost will hit your organization's bottom line.
Why are trustees our best hope for changing this course? Because you are the link between the hospital and the community, and between the hospital and other public and private groups — political leaders, local agencies, charitable organizations, schools, and parks and recreation departments. Only trustees have the credibility and connections to explain to a wide audience the problem and the costs that every member of the community will bear. And only multiple stakeholders working together in innovative, unprecedented ways will make a dent in those chilling statistics.
How will you get started?