The Hospital Group Explains How Geographic Factors Influence Health Care Costs
Improving overall health and wellness on a widespread basis is a critical goal when it comes to reducing the burden of future medical costs, especially when one considers the ease with which this should be able to be accomplished. While most would assume that personal matters of health are mostly in the hands of the individual, there are a number of external factors that influence the extent to which an individual will require medical care in the future. In many ways, the old real estate adage regarding the profound importance of “location, location, location,” also applies quite well to matters of health and wellness.
According to The Hospital Group and many other experts, these external factors exert an influence over a population that is not always easily recognized and may lead to frustration for those who are indeed making an earnest effort to improve their overall health. Even though these factors can be somewhat hidden, once they are identified they are fairly easily addressed and corrected. Understanding how something as simple as geography can influence health is the first step of many for improving health and wellness on a widespread basis.
One of the more contentious issues relating to the health and wellness of entire populations centers on the idea of “food deserts,” or places in which there is a lack of healthy and affordable meal options within a reasonable distance. These so-called deserts may have fast-food restaurants or convenience stores but will also have a noticeable dearth of fresh, affordable produce and other healthy food options, forcing residents in the area to adopt poor dietary habits due to simple geographic factors beyond their control.
Though the problem is obvious, the solution is not necessarily as straightforward as it may seem. The Hospital Group has asserted that while these areas are in need of healthy food options if residents are to be able to improve their dietary habits, there is also a dire need for educational efforts as well. It is not enough to place a health-food store in the center of these deserts, as residents are just as likely to continue to follow the routine they have long since adopted. This is why residents must have healthy options and must also understand the importance of making dietary changes with the goal of improved health, otherwise these former food deserts will continue to have the same negative impact as before.
Changes in diet represent a first step toward the improved health of a population, but it is far from the only measure that should be considered as it relates to geography. Regular physical activity is also critical for reducing the likelihood of future medical issues, and it is much easier to create convenient and practical forms of activity instead of trying to convince an entire population to engage in a regular exercise routine. This is why many cities have created a system that encourages residents to walk or ride their bike while running errands, heading to work or performing any number of necessary daily tasks. To accomplish this, these cities have installed walkways and bike paths that provide a more direct route to city centers and allow citizens to avoid traffic and parking issues, thereby making it more convenient to engage in regular physical activity.
The Hospital Group has acknowledged that convincing whole populations to improve their health and fitness is quite a tall order, but it also notes that utilizing a few simple strategies making it easier and more convenient for people to implement these lifestyle changes can generate a potentially sizable reduction in the burden of future medical costs. Cities that address the geographic issues that may be having an adverse health effect on its citizens are therefore able to simultaneously encourage a clear public good while also making positive changes that should significantly reduce medical expenditures in the future.