Science Friday: Obesity, Mammograms, and Autism


Here is some of the latest science research impacting employee health:

Obesity = 21% of US health care costs

Study suggests that obesity costs health plans more than smoking and represents approximately 21% of US Health Care Costs. How much does obesity cost your health plan? Is it even possible to calculate it? Have you ever tried to link BMI type data with health costs? If so, please share your findings – is 21% accurate?

Mammograms may do more harm than good

Mammograms lead to over diagnosis and over treatment according to another study (that makes 8 with the same conclusion). This has been a reoccurring them in the medical literature for awhile now and part of the reason why the US Preventive Service Task Force changed their recommendation for the age at which when should get mammograms a while back.

Lung cancer screening may be worth the investment

Screening for lung cancer in patients aged 50-64 who are or were smokers shown to be worth the cost and save lives – despite insurance plans generally not covering it. This might be something to look into adding into your wellness program – encouraging lung cancer screenings in applicable populations – assuming you have the data to identify them.

Autism linked to maternal obesity, smoking during pregnancy and higher maternal age

Study links maternal obesity with higher likelihood of having an autistic child and a separate study’s preliminary findings suggest that women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have children with autism and yet another study linked autism to higher maternal age showing a 30% increased risk for autism in mothers over age 35.

Lots of autism research relating to maternity was published. While interesting, I’m not sure that much can be done in the way of employee education except in the case of the smoking link.

Urban areas hard on hearts

Study on heart disease suggest that living in urban areas doubles the risk of calcium build up in arteries. This is just an interesting data point about urban vs rural areas and the impact of environment on overall health. It’s something that I think often gets lost in the overall buzz on wellness and it’s focus on exercise, weight, diet, and biometrics.

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