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Currently showing: Funding longer lives > Health/medicine

13 Nov 15 15:48

24 years ago tomorrow, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) created World Diabetes Day held each year on November 14 with the focus for 2015 being on healthy eating. Yesterday, IDF released their latest figures on global diabetes prevalence - a startling 417 million adults have diabetes, three quarters in low- and middle-income countries and by 2040 this will rise to 642 million. To my surprise, I also learnt this week that diabetes is now a bigger killer than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

According to the findings from the recent European Insurance Report 2015, 1 in 3 share the view that they have less than a 20% chance of contracting a serious illness before the age of 80 (as per the attached graph). This calls for a clear need to put an action in place now, so as to "act today to change tomorrow" as termed in the WDD 2015 campaign. Yes, one could say that there is ambiguity around what is classed as a "serious illness", but with so many unnerving statistics in the public domain, consumers appear to be in denial about the perceived probability of contracting a serious illness. In the UK for example, the chances of a 20 year old suffering a severe illness or deterioration in health (such as having a heart attack or getting cancer) before the age of 80 is 32% for non-smokers, and a staggering 47% for non-smokers. The chances increase multiple times for diabetes sufferers.

To help put a pause on this global diabetes epidemic, we need to turn our attention to the food industry, and relook at our current lifestyle and eating habits.

Would you be supportive of a tax on sugar?

Healthy eating costs about USD 1.50 a day more than an unhealthy diet, according to research carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health. While diabetes awareness is evidently crucial through days such as November 14 (WDD), this should be in conjunction with influential bodies/parties turning eating costs on its head, so individuals leading a healthy lifestyle are not financially penalised for doing so. Would you be more inclined to buy a bag of deep-ridged crisps at USD 0.50 or a fresh crispy apple at USD 0.75? Would it be worthwhile considering a tax on unhealthy foodstuff, such as the soda tax approved in Berkeley, California November last year? Ahead of the G20 meeting, taking place this weekend, IDF called for a tax on sugar to appear on the agenda.

Insurers are increasingly seeing the value of engaging with their customers through access to health and wellbeing platforms and the like, not only to improve customer retention but also claims experience. While there is a wealth of information available to customers to help people track and improve their health, there would appear to be no focus on reducing the underlying cost of such healthy food. Is there any value in (re)insurers working more closely with the food industry to help improve and manage the inforce book, not just to save the planet but also to save lives and reduce healthcare costs?

As of today, I am going to change my eating habits so that for every sugary snack I choose to eat, I will also eat another piece of fruit or vegetable, over and above the recommended five a day I typically consume. Although I like my food (including fruit and vegetables) this diet change I believe will result in a reduction in the number of sugary snacks I choose to eat. What action are you going to take today, in order to change your tomorrow?

Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine


Melissa Leitner - 16 Nov 2015, 9:21 a.m.

Poppy, agree completely that the food industry needs reform, for the sake of the environment and for the sake of our health.

What action am I personally going to take to make better choices for my own health...?
Well, this is something I've started already: choosing (more often) to drink simple, clean, fresh water, as an alternative to drinks with sugar and/or other unnatural additives. At the same time, I'm avoiding plastic bottled water. I'm grateful to live in a place where water straight from the tap is clean and good. I realise this is a privilege, which though simple-sounding, many in the world still don't have.

David Bernert - 19 Nov 2015, 2:59 p.m.

@Melissa_Leitner, yes, drinking-quality tap-water is (globally seen) a privilege the "first world" probably doesn't appreciate enough (yet?)...

In our new office in Munich, you can observe almost all employees grabbing one of the provided glass-bottles in the coffee-corners, filling it with plain/sparkling/cooled tap-water and putting it on the desk for the day. A dozen tea-sorts & hot water are also provided free of charge (while coffee costs a few cents).

Back to @Poppy_Girdlestone 's blog - we are also lucky to be served a large, varied fruit-bowl every afternoon. You sometimes hear the whispering in the office: "...are the fruits there yet??".
I've set my daily reminder, because the selection to choose from is diminishing quickly during busy office days ;-)

As for my action today: I'll extend this reminder-series to the weekend, in order to involve my family into this fruit-snack-habit :-)

It's time you visit our office, Poppy...

Yilan Xu - 26 Nov 2015, 1:22 p.m.

Great work Poppy!

Totally agree: "you are what you eat." There is no way to get around this. I cannot remember how many times I hear people saying that "even if take a chocolate bar/eat processed food/eat sth. naughty everyday, but if I go for a run after that, I should keep my weight under control." Mathematically it works (eat 300 calories then burn 300 calories ). However the harsh reality is these people are still struggling with keeping BMI on track. Why? I am not going to reveal the answer here;) I like to keep people guessing. Be careful with the food you choose and "'cause you can chew it and swallow it and poxp it out doesn't mean it's food" - Cameron Diaz.

Adam Benacka - 17 Dec 2015, 1:18 p.m.

It has to do with your mental discount rate. People who do not value future (high mental discount rate) tend to behave more irresponsibly than long-term oriented people (with low mental discount rate). I pursue a very healthy lifestyle and people around me tend to question it. Their most frequent argument is: "I do not care what I eat becaue I can be run over by a car and be completely healthy, so I die anyway!" In fact, over the life time, the risk of being run over by a car and dying is about 150 times lower than CVD related death!!!

As Yilan says: "even if I take a chocolate bar/eat processed food/eat sth. neughty everyday, but if I go for a run after that, I should keep my weight under control" - I wonder whether people would be OK with putting a cheap and low quality gas into their cars knowing it damages their car engine no matter how many kilometers they drive!

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