Obesity isn’t just an American problem. We often think that we are the sole carrier of the torch, but it’s a global problem. Mexico, Argentina, Egypt, and Greece are only a few countries that have overweight rates (a BMI greater than or equal to 25) nearing the 70 percent mark, according to the World Health Organization.
Japan isn’t just “the Land of the Rising Sun”… but health care costs as well. The country is taking extreme measures to curtail expenses. The thing that is confusing is they are near the bottom of any list I see ranking overweight countries (by BMI). They are 163rd on the World Health Organization’s list of overweight (22 percent of the population).
Nevertheless, Japan’s health care costs have ballooned by 68 percent between 1989 and 2006, to $370 billion a year. Without doing a thorough analysis of everything that may be causing this increase in cost, maybe 1 in 5 people being overweight is enough for government officials to take action.
To my libertarian friends, if you think some of the health legislation in the U.S. steps on your freedoms, take a look what’s going on over in Japan. There are some hardcore regulations being put into place. Take this for example, from Business Week:
“As part of a government drive to stem the prevalence of metabolic syndrome, a previously rarely mentioned disease that seems to cover everything that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes, waistlines are now being stringently monitored and, for anyone even slightly plump, acted upon.”
Men who are 40 and over can’t have a waist size higher than 33.5 inches. Women can get to 35.4 inches before there are any repercussions. Not that you are going to be sent to jail. But, those who are exceeding the limits for three months are given dietary guidance. This includes agreeing to a weight loss target, exercise program and e-mails to check on your progress, among other things.
What are the real repercussions, you might ask?
Japanese bureaucrats will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that don’t hit targets. For large companies with lots of employees, the fines are potentially enormous, running to millions of dollars if they miss targets.
In Japan, most people are covered by state-run health care, which is partially funded by companies and employee contributions. The worry is, just like here, that if costs continue to rise, it will become unsustainable. The iron fist approach in Japan may be flawed, and its doubtful that there would be any political will to do something similar here in the States, it may get to the point where something drastic has to be done.
(via: Business Week)
March 10th, 2009