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Obesity costs could quadruple by 2018

Thirty-eight percent fewer Americans smoke today than 20 years ago, but 129% more are obese, which threatens to cost the U.S. health system hundreds of billions of dollars in the upcoming decade, according to a new public health report. "There is a tsunami of chronic preventable disease about to be unleashed into the American health care delivery system," said Reed V. Tuckson, MD, executive vice president at the insurer UnitedHealth Group. Public education, taxes and restrictions on smoking appear to be working. More than 3 million Americans quit since 2008, reducing the nation's smoking rate to 18.3%, a decrease of 1.5 percentage points. The 1990 rate was 29.5%, according to the 20th anniversary edition of "America's Health Rankings," released Nov. 17 by the UnitedHealth Foundation, the American Public Health Assn. and the Partnership for Prevention. However, 26.6% of Americans are obese, up from 26.3% in 2008. If trends continue, the nation will spend an estimated $344 billi ...

How your medical practice can avoid a holiday that's fa-la-la-la-lousy

The end-of-the-year holidays can be a happy, wonderful occasion, when staff can celebrate 12 months of hard work with a party, some tasteful decorations, and a few days off. Or a medical practice can become a place of rancor when celebrations hit an off-note, staff get injured decorating the office, and vacation policies result in time off being allocated in a way that is perceived as unfair. Experts say your practice can foster the first scenario and make the latter less likely by asking the staff how they want to celebrate and doing so in a way that reflects the values of the practice. "There's enough stress on everyone. You don't want to add to it," said Demetrian Dornic, MD, medical director of the Eye Specialists of Carolina in Raleigh, N.C. "We look at our employees as very valuable. I want them to feel appreciated." This can manifest in different ways. Last year, employees at the East Tennessee Medical Group in Alcoa decided to forgo a holiday party and contributed t ...

Medical lawsuit limits favored by public

Physicians and other tort reform advocates say an Associated Press poll released Nov. 19 shows the public agrees that limiting medical liability lawsuits is key to successfully overhauling the health care system. The nationwide survey by the news organization showed that 54% of Americans favor limits on such lawsuits, while 32% opposed such measures ( The phone interviews with 1,502 adults, which also covered other aspects of health system reform, were conducted from Oct. 29 to Nov. 8 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media and Stanford University, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they believed that at least half of the tests physicians ordered were done unnecessarily, based on doctors' fears of being sued. "If we are going to provide health insurance coverage, we need to get rid of the unnecessary health care costs," and defensiv ...