Americans use health care services every day, and they use them for a number of different reasons. Whether it is for preventing or curing illness, mending broken bones, delivering infants, or perhaps long term care in a nursing home there has been and will always continue to be a consistent need for the health care industry. According to an article published by the National Center for Health Care Statistics, there are a number of different factors that determine how much health care people use, the various types of care that they use, and the timing of care that they seek (Bernstein, Hing, Moss, Allen, Siller and Tiggle, 2003). These factors could include many different variables; however, for the purpose of this paper we will discuss how trends such as the aging population, and the growing rate of obesity in America are likely to influence the delivery of health care services in the future.
THE AGINING POPULATION
The population of the United States on April 1, 2010 was 308.7 million people. This is according to an article regarding the 2010 Census report (Howden & Meyer, 2011). In the same article the age composition of the population is broken down. It shows that those aged infant to 18 accounted for 24.0 percent of the country’s population. In addition citizens between the ages of 18 and 44 represented 36.5 percent, and those 45 to 64 made up 26.4 percent of the population. Finally, individuals aged 65 or older accounted for 13.0 percent of the United States population (Howden & Meyer, 2011).
These numbers are expected to change significantly over the next few decades. More specifically, the older population which consists of individuals 65 or older is expected to grow rapidly. This expected growth is largely in part due to the generation known as the baby boomers. This concept is supported in another article published by the U.S. Census Bureau. It states, Between 2010 and 2050, the United States is projected to experience rapid growth in its older population. In 2050, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to be 88.5 million, more than double its projected population of 40.2 million in 2010. The baby boomers are largely responsible for this increase in the older population, as they will begin crossing into this category in 2011. (Vincent & Velkoff, 2010, para 2). In addition, there are other factors that support the population growing older. These factors include a decline in fertility rates, and an increase in the age of average life expectancy.
It goes without saying that older generations have different medical needs then do younger generation. Furthermore, as the populations grows older there will be a greater demand for health care services. According to a summary report published by the University of Albany it is estimated that 84 percent of people 65 or older are likely to suffer from at least one chronic medical condition. Such conditions include cancer, heart disease and diabetes to name a few (2006). Along with rising health care needs there will be a greater demand for prescription medications as well. In conjunction with these factors the need for long term care facilities will grow also. As we know already when there is a demand for something there must also be an adequate supply. There is great concern that as the population ages it is probable that the supply of health care services may not be enough. In the same summary published by the University of Albany it states, The expected growth of the older adult population in the U.S. over the next 50 years will have an unprecedented impact on the U.S. health care system, especially in terms of supply and demand for health care workers. The supply of health care workers may decrease as they age and large numbers retire and/or reduce their working hours. At the same time, older adults consume a disproportionately large share of American health care services, so the demand for health services will grow. The aging population will also affect the nature of the skills and services the health care workforce must be equipped to provide, and the settings in which this care is provided. (2006, page 2) In addition, there will not just be a greater need for health care professionals such as psycians, nurses, lab technicians and more. There will also be a large necessity for advancements in health care technologies and facilities.
We know that there is nothing that can be done to stop the process of aging itself; however, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the health complications that are related to aging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a few opportunities to improve health and quality of life in older generations include promoting healthy lifestyle choices such as quitting smoking, and increasing the use of preventative services (2011).
THE GROWING RATE OF OBESITY
Obesity is a disease that is associated with having an excess amount of body fat. It is condition that has been linked to a number of different medical issues including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke to name a few. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one-third of the population is considered obese costing the United States an estimated $147 billion in 2008 (2013). Although the numbers are already astonishing they are only expected to grow in the future. An article featured in the American Medical News predicts that if the obesity trends continue to rise by 2030 an estimated 50 percent of America’s men and 45 to 52 percent of its women will be obese (Henry, 2011). There are many factors that contribute to the growing trend of obesity. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the environment around us does not support healthy lifestyle habits (2012). This is because we live in a world with advanced technologies and conveniences. With busy schedules it is often easy for people to give in to fast food or microwave dinners because they are quick and easy. It can also be difficult for people to get physical exercise because many neighborhoods around the country lack safe places for recreation, or affordable gyms (The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012).
A few different demographic factors linked to the obesity trend include age, sex, and race. As mentioned previously, Americans spent as estimated $147 billion for health care services in 2008. This number is expected to grow substantially over time. One author wrote that the cost of obesity is expected to reach $344 billion by the year 2018 (Thorpe, n.d.). These numbers are outrages. In addition to the rising health care cost that stems from obesity we have to be concerned about the health complications that can come with the disease. Obesity has been linked to an insane number of health conditions including type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, some forms of cancer, sleep apnea and many more. There are steps that can be taken to prevent obesity, and the health issues that are associated with it. Eating healthy is vital, and not always as easy as it sounds. It can be so very easy to fall into food traps but we should focus our time and energy towards foods that are rich in nutrients and low in calories. These foods include lean meats and proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. It is also important to exercise on a regular basis. Exercises such as walking, swimming, or running are excellent. In addition, reversing the obesity epidemic in America is going to require a community effort. Schools, places of business, and government agencies should all be involved in this mission.
As our population ages, and obesity rates rise in America there is no doubt that the health care industry will need to adapt. These issues will require many advancements is medical technology, as well as a larger supplies of health care professionals including doctors, nurses, mental health providers, lab technicians, long term care providers, and administrators. The list could go on and on. Therefore, in the next few decades it will be important for the industry to recruit, and adequately train new health care professionals as the baby boomer population nears retirement. Moving forward, it will also be important for the community, and not just the health care world, to implement new ways to encourage preventative care. This will require many different organizations to become involved, most especially schools because the key to prevention is education. If the younger generations are taught the healthy way to live, and if more parents lead by example the future of this country would in turn be much more healthy.
The world of health care is ever changing, and there are many different trends that affect it. As the future rolls forward it will be most interesting to see how health care professionals adapt to each trend.
Bernstein, A. B., Hing, E., Moss, A. J., Allen K. F., Siller A.B. & Tiggle R. B. (2003). Health Care in America: Trends in Utilization. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/misc/healthcare.pdf Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/aging.htm Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Obesity and Overweight. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html Henry, T. A. (2011). U.S. Obesity Rate Expected to Reach 50% by 2030. Retrieved from http://www.amednews.com/article/20110912/health/309129951/4/ Howden, L. M., & Meyer, J. M. (2011). Age and Sex Composition: 2010. 2010 Census Briefs. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-03.pdf Thorpe, K. (n.d.). New Data Shows Obesity Costs Will Grow to $344 Billion by 2018. Retrieved from http://www.fightchronicdisease.org/media-center/releases/new-data-shows-obesity-costs-will-grow-344-billion-2018 University of Albany. (2006). The Impact of the Aging Population on the Health Workforce in the United States: Summary of Key Findings. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/news/pdf_files/impact_of_aging_excerpt.pdf U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). What Causes Overweight and Obesity?. Retrieved from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/causes.html Vincet, G. K., & Velkoff, Victoria A. (2010). The Next Four Day Decades the Older Population in the United States: 2010 to 2050: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p25-1138.pdf