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The Catch: We're Number 1! (In Weight)

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The United States is not that terrible at controlling diabetes, by world standards, but it continues to have a serious weight problem.

Researchers at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris, have published figures supporting those conclusions in a report comparing the quality of medical care for chronic conditions in 15 OECD member countries.

The OECD researchers found that the United States performed reasonably well on some indicators.

The United States did better than the OECD average at keeping residents ages 15 and older from entering the hospital with uncontrolled diabetes. The rate wasabout 21 per 100,000 for the United States, compared with an OECD average of about 50 per 100,000.

But the United States ranked very poorly in terms of the number of people ages 15 and older admitted to hospitals with asthma. The rate was about 121 per 100,000 in the United States, compared with an OECD average of about 52 per 100,000, and the Slovak Republic was the only participating country  that did worse on that indicator.

U.S. residents also continued to outweigh the residents of other OECD countries.

About 34% of U.S. adults are obese, compared with an average adult obesity rate of 17% for all OECD countries. In the next weightiest country, Mexico, about 30% of adults are obese.

But other OECD countries are starting to catch up: The overall OECD obesity rate increased to 17% in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, up from 13% in 2000 and 9% in 1990.

“Obesity is a key risk factor for many chronic conditions, with severely obese people dying up to 10 years earlier than those of normal weight,” OECD officials note in a comment on the obesity statistics.

The new OECD report “shows that obesity rates have doubled or even tripled in many countries since 1980,” officials say. “In more than half of OECD countries, 50% or more of the population is now overweight.”


Healthways Inc., Nashville, Tenn. (Nasdaq:HWAY), has found that U.S. residents who still smoke are often more addicted to smoking than they are to the food they need to stay alive.

Only 21% of U.S. residents still smoke, according to results of a poll commissioned by Healthways, but about 35% of the 20% of U.S. residents who did not have enough money to buy food within the past 12 months are smokers.

Only 14% of U.S. residents who can always afford to buy food are smokers.


The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, Brookfield, Wis., surveyed members and found that the percentage of multiemployer and public employer plan benefits managers that think of their health and wellness programs as being part of a “broader value-based health care” strategy has increased to 37% this year, from 16% a year ago.