Health care cost and quality has been growing major issue in the national economy. “Health care costs have increased dramatically over the last few decades and are now thought to be excessively high” (Liebowitz, 2004, p. 1).
This has caused the current political reevaluation of our health care system, including its funding performance. Health care spending in the United States has reached over the trillions, annual increases fueled by the rising hospital spending and prescription drug costs are only part of the picture.
The current and future health care cost issue is particularly intense in Wisconsin. This debate about health care costs: where it comes from, who has access to health care, and why some are excluded will continue for years. What matters is that the health care model is failing and seniors are living longer, creating a viscous cycle resulting in spiraling health care costs that are generally unaffected by productivity or quality of life criteria. We need a strategy to keep our seniors active and functional within their lifestyles and free of illnesses. Community based exercise facilities, like the community centers, Y’s or health clubs, are natural places to turn to provide for this type of programming.
Clearly we are in an environment of very dynamic change; one with which seniors have a difficult time keeping pace. There needs to be a model that has focus on prevention instead of illness care. Beyond this, such a model must work for the seniors in a supportive environment. This leads to several basic themes that can be used to address the dynamic changes occurring in health care.
First, a careful examination of all issues, whether it is for seniors or any other population, within facilities needs to occur. Asking the strategic questions around “are we ready for what is needed for accommodating our seniors and their growing needs?” Are we serving the senior population needs? As the senior population continues to grow in size and in age in Wisconsin, seniors are living longer and richer lives. The problems addressed by studying this require innovation and thinking outside of the normal guidelines. If a model can be devised, developed or grown as a model it will present an answer to many seniors who seek relief from high health care costs as well as developing an increasingly healthier lifestyle. The desire of people everywhere to be physically fit, reflects their commitment to get more out of life. (Sutton & Brock, 1986)
Second, is the objective value of a lifestyle incorporating exercise? Pescatello, Murphy, and Costanzo (2000) found that higher amounts of self-reported low- intensity, regular physical activity were associated with favorable blood lipid-lipoprotein profiles in community-living older adults. Which means that they have higher HDL (high density lipoproteins) (i.e. good cholesterol) by being active on a daily basis. As an additional key point in studying seniors' health and wellness, is that participation in physical activities of everyday life should be recommended to older people to optimize their cardiovascular health (Murphy et al., 2000). In fact, a lifestyle with exercise can then be associated with better health generally and a longer life.
Third, are corporate sponsored programs for encouraging/supporting increased levels of activity? There are organizations in Wisconsin that actively promote increased activity amongst their employees. These corporations have forward thinking leaders at the helm of the organization. They also have top-down driven expectations with complete infrastructures that support their value statements to employees and the communities they reside in. Lastly, the organizations have rewards that reinforce the activity.
In terms of these three themes, seniors have avoided exercise for a variety of reasons that include issues of health, motivation, and the environment (Satariano, Haight, and Tager 2000). Satariano showed psychological, administrative, physical/health, and knowledge barriers to activity. These studies are important and indicate that we need to know whether it is medical or non-medical reasons that motivates or dissuades seniors from exercise.
So what is it?
Let’s change our path?
We are in trouble, as a nation, from a medical cost standpoint which affects the overall economic stability, if as a society we do not start adopting a more cost effective approach to healthy living. The simple fact is that we do not have the societal resources to provide medical care to all persons, and particularly the very expensive end of life care, without a major burden on the overall stability of our economy. We know that physically active individuals are healthier, we know that physical activity is an effective method of reducing subsequent morbidity and mortality in individuals with known diseases. Fortunately or unfortunately, seniors who exercise are seniors who, generally speaking, have been exercising all their lives. It raises the question of how do we get sedentary young and middle aged adults to start exercising before reaching the health sensitive senior years. Which intern reflects the points made of organizations who sponsor health and wellness programs? The power of the current health care model needs to shift towards a proactive preventative models which has great promise to long term solutions for everyone.
Patricia J. Lenius is a founder and principal creative strategist for PJL & Associates, LLC. She provides strategic creative “Outside of the Box” thinking bringing her clients new revenue stream options, as well as solutions for challenges they face with the ever changing economy. As an active member in the community, Patricia serves as a board member for both the Wellness Council of Wisconsin, and the Wellness Compliance Institute.