According to a recent issue of Health Affairs, all we have to do is completely eliminate five risk factors: smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
I find it amazing that these risk factors contribute to (potentially, depending on the credibility you lend the study) more than half of all disability in this country. And given that the study (Preventing Disability: The Influence of Modifiable Risk Factors On State and National Disability Prevalence) is written from a non-work comp perspective, I view this as more of challenge in our industry (where we accept the whole person and have relatively little influence over pre-injury behavior).
If the theoretical elimination of all five risk factors is a bridge too far for you, consider a more conservative analysis contained in the study: If each risk factor was reduced to the level of the "best performing" state (i.e., if all states mirrored the nation's lower obesity rate of Colorado), we would observe a decline in disability prevalence of approximately 7%. And disability rates in regions where prevalence is highest (South, Appalachia, and Great Lakes) would drop more than 10% under such a scenario.
But our starting point is grim. In the 18-54 age cohort, nearly 70% of US adults have more than one of the five risk factors. In the 55-64 cohort, it's about 90%. And in the 65-79 category, about 95%.
This isn't just clinical, it's cultural.
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