Occupational therapy is an expanding resource for intervention in obesity and weight management. Many obese patients need assistance in dealing with their condition. Years of bad habits are so ingrained that they are unaware of how to participate in their own wellness plan. Physicians are using OTs as a way to introduce remedial behaviors for those folks.
About 40 per cent of Americans are overweight, according to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That translates to more than 93 million people being, not just garden variety chubby, but clinically obese. This is a serious health crisis, and not just in the United States. Obesity is the the ﬁfth leading cause of death worldwide.
Clinical obesity presents an economic burden on the country, in terms of medical costs for treating the conditions that develop as a result of an overweight population. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, joint wear and deterioration, cancer, limited mobility and other related complaints drive health care costs up. The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that by the year 2030 (not that long from now), medical costs for obesity alone could reach 66 billion dollars. This doesn't even take into account the missed work, lost wages and lack of productivity for which being severely overweight is responsible.
The Human Cost
The consequences of obesity is also human suffering. Aside from the physical infirmities engendered by being overweight, obesity can also adversely affect an individual's mental well being. More and more children are growing up fat, which makes children at risk for health problems in the future. It could limit their fertility and even shorten their lifespans. The economic, social, physical and psychological repercussions are impossible to calculate. But something has to be done.
Reducing with Occupational Therapy
Prevention is the ideal way to deal with any public health threat. But treating the obese population will take the efforts of many disciplines. Medical doctors, psychologists, dietitians and other providers must coordinate their efforts if we are to be successful in weight management. Occupational Therapists promise to be an integral part of the solution. Occupational therapy services can help those struggling with obesity to lead improved lives by addressing the practical aspects of daily life in their physical environment.
Working in conjunction with other health care delivery, OTs are cultivating healthy habits in meal planning, buying and preparing food and making better choices. These are areas where an OT can contribute to a team effort for strategic treatment and better outcomes. Educating the patient and the public will result in a population that is healthier, happier and longer lived.
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