Letter to the Editor

:“F” as in “fat”…Maine can  and will do better

In a report released this September by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, sobering statistics were revealed about the future of our nation’s health.  In this report, entitled “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012”, it was stated that given current trends, by 2030 more than 44% of America’s citizens will be considered “obese”.  With this projected rise in obesity, a multitude of health issues will reach epidemic levels.  The same report predicts cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension & arthritis will rise 10 fold between 2010 and 2020 and then double again by 2030.  Wow.  Odds are, you will know someone whose quality of life is drastically affected by one or several of these conditions.

Beyond the health issues that obesity brings, there are staggering economic losses that come with our nation’s health woes.  Combined obesity related health care costs and lost economic productivity are projected to cost the nation ~ ready for this? ~ as much as $856 billion annually. 

So this is the nation, but how does Maine stack up?  Sadly, Maine is on course for a 55.2% obese population in 2030.  That’s way more than half of the state’s population!  Obesity related health care costs are on course to rise 19% in Maine by 2030, the 12th highest rise in the country.  This will be more than $7.5 billion dollars annually needlessly spent in our state on a preventable scenario.

These are shocking numbers, but probably not news to you.  My message today is not intended to bring you down, but rather inspire you by letting you know that there are efforts being made in your community to change the health course we are on.  Maine’s state health system has implemented a series of coalitions on a county by county basis aimed to improve residents’ health.  These coalitions are called “Healthy Maine Partnerships”.  Healthy Acadia, in partnership with Washington County: One Community, are the Healthy Maine Partnerships for Hancock & Washington Counties.  Despite great progress made, legislation recently took a huge chunk out of the funding for Healthy Maine Partnerships.  About 30% of state funding was zapped overnight.  This included the elimination of the critical work of Coordinated School Health programs, which seeks to incorporate healthy lifestyle habits in school age children.  This is an evidence based approach known to be extremely effective for improved health over one’s entire life.

Despite the major fiscal setbacks endured by state budget cuts, Healthy Acadia is on the front lines in Hancock & Washington Counties, working to help you & those you love enjoy a higher quality of life.  Whether it is with the fabulously successful Farm to School program, creating walkable communities to get folks out of their cars, supplying seniors with farm fresh produce & social opportunities, educating local businesses & residents on the benefits of ending tobacco use or acting as a clearing house of info connecting countless, likeminded partners, Healthy Acadia is there.  You can learn more about what is going on to make a better tomorrow in your community and how you can be a part of it by visiting Healthy Acadia’s website: www.HealthyAcadia.org.  It’s not going to happen by itself.  Arm yourself with knowledge and take a stand.  Only together can we turn our “F” into an “A+”.

Respectfully Submitted, Ryan Swanson