TK studies: Germany has a really big problem

We Germans are getting fatter
The significantly increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity is a major challenge for our health system. "Germany has a big problem," emphasizes the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) in view of the results of its current nutritional study "Eat something, Germany". As a result of the growing prevalence of overweight and obesity, nutritional diseases such as cardiovascular complaints and metabolic disorders would have increased dramatically.

The weight problems of many Germans are not only a burden for their own health, but also an enormous challenge for the health system as a whole. According to the current TK nutrition study, half of the adults in Germany are overweight (47 percent) and eight percent of people say they are overweight they are very overweight. Other studies assume an even higher distribution.

Increased cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders
In its nutritional study, the TK recorded the self-assessment of the respondents and already came to alarmingly high numbers. In other studies such as the DEGS (Study on Adult Health in Germany) by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the proportion of overweight people is even estimated to be two thirds for men and around 50 percent for women, reports the TK. As a result of the weight problems, there is a massive increase in cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders, the health insurance company continues.

Documenting and educating is not enough
The Techniker Krankenkasse alone recorded almost 700,000 visits to the doctor and almost 130,000 hospital stays diagnosed with obesity in 2016. "It is clear to everyone that we have a serious problem here, but everyone sees the other as an obligation," emphasizes Dr. TK's CEO. Jens Baas. The health insurance companies would document more and more nutritional diseases, but documenting and constantly raising awareness campaigns was not enough. "Especially with this topic, we all have to see outside the box," says Baas.

Most of the time, medication is given
Most people still seem to find it an easier way to treat lifestyle-related illnesses with medication than to change their diet and prescribe exercise, the TK boss emphasizes. Not only has the number of patients with cardiovascular complaints increased, but the prescribed amount of cardiovascular medication has also increased significantly. According to the TK, "in 2016 every working person received cardiovascular preparations for three months" and overall "the volume has increased by 80 percent since 2000."

Reduce disincentives in healthcare
The current study comes to the conclusion that more than every fourth insured person suffers from cardiovascular complaints such as high blood pressure and around 15 percent develop metabolic disorders such as diabetes. After appropriate diagnosis, treatment often relies on medication, although there are also other options. Baas criticized the fact that almost everyone in the health care system in its current form benefits from the high level of medication and that there are hardly any incentives to take care of people's health. For this reason, Baas demands from the legislator, for example, "to correct the serious false incentives, for example in the financial compensation of health insurance companies, the morbidity-oriented risk structure compensation (Morbi-RSA)."

Food industry also under obligation
However, Techniker Krankenkasse also sees the food industry as a duty: Because healthy eating is made unnecessarily difficult for people. “Many products contain too much fat and too much sugar, and the packaging doesn't even state it in an understandable way. Here, too, it is up to politicians to ensure that consumers can get information properly, ”said Baas.

Nationwide action plan required
In the end, however, personal responsibility also plays a significant role and both insured and health insurers should invest here, reports the TK. For example, modern, even digital offers that fit into people's everyday lives could increase self-motivation for a healthy lifestyle. It's not just about whether you put a few pounds more or less on the scales. But with a more active lifestyle you can "do a lot to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attack and back problems", says Baas. In view of the questionable development, the TK is calling for a nationwide action plan against obesity, for which politics, healthcare, industry and consumers should work equally. (fp)
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