The Lehigh Valley needs to get healthier if it's going to retain and attract businesses, according to Dr. James S. Marks, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J.
“Businesses look at the obesity rate in an area before they make the decision to move or expand,” said Marks who addressed a crowd at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest today.
Marks, a former staff member of the Centers for Disease Control, who also served as Assistant Surgeon General, noted that areas with lower obesity rates typically offer lower health care costs and higher productivity associated with its workers.
Health-care costs are out of control, commented Jeff Etchason, chairman of community health studies and education with LVHN. He called one of the major current challenges to the health care system as the “unsustainable cost of health care.”
In his speech, Marks charged health care providers with serving as leaders in a new movement towards healthier communities, which will, in turn, result in lowered health care costs.
“Leadership is one of the biggest issues and it won't be solved alone, actions need to be taken by private business, communities and transportation…It's not going to be easy, we need to look at a broader definition of health, not just the absence of disease,” Marks said.
Socio-economic factors, such as family income and proximity to high-crime areas, and a lack of safe parks in which to exercise, have a large impact on the overall health of individuals, Marks said.
For instance, studies show that the life expectancy for those who live in inner cities are more likely to be obese and have a shorter lifespan than those who live in suburbs. Marks used the Washington, D.C. metro area as an example of this. He said that individuals within the city lived, on average, nine years less than those in the outlying suburban areas.