Letter to the Editor by Young to Obesity in Older Adults

Obesity on the Rise: What Can Nurses Do?

August 1, 2011
Response by Cynthia Young to the article Obesity in Older Adults by Ann Mabe Newman (January 31, 2009).
with Reply from author.

Dear Editor:

Obesity is a major health issue that affects all age groups, in particular older adults, as Dr. Newman (2009) has noted in her article on obesity. The number of people who are overweight or obese has been increasing each year. Overweight is now estimated to affect more than 70% of all the people in the United States (US). Dr. Newman has recommended aerobic and strengthening exercises to address obesity. She has also noted that there are sociological factors that contribute to obesity, such as poverty and lower levels of education. These factors, which also influence healthcare access and affordability, are barriers to weight loss. Although she described a number of valuable weight loss interventions, she did not address political involvement as a weight-loss intervention. 

I would like to draw your attention to a bill that has been proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R.369) that may help to address the monetary barrier to weight loss and give an incentive for patients to exercise. The bill, introduced as the Health Savings and Affordability Act of 2011, was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means in January of 2011, It is sponsored by Representative Steve Austria (OH-7), along with 13 co-sponsors. It was created to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in-order-to improve access to healthcare by allowing a deduction for individuals’ health insurance costs and expanding health savings accounts.

I am particularly interested in Section 8 of this bill, titled Certain Exercise Equipment and Physical Fitness Programs Treated as Medical Care, because I believe this bill could increase the use of physical exercise to promote weight loss by making effective exercise more affordable. This bill suggests that the following words be added to the Health Savings and Affordability Act of 2003: “the term medical care shall include amounts paid (i) to purchase or use equipment used in a program (including a self-directed program) of physical exercise, (ii) to participate, or receive instruction, in a program of physical exercise, and (iii) for membership dues in a fitness club the primary purpose of which is to provide access to equipment and facilities for physical exercise.”  This bill does state that the amount treated as medical care shall not exceed $1,200 with respect to any individual for any taxable year.  Please join me in support of this bill that will aid in the promotion of weight loss and help decrease the rate of obesity that continues to increase in our country.

Cynthia Young, BSN, RN
Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Student
University of San Diego, Hahn School of Nursing


Newman, A.M. (2009). Obesity in older adults. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 14(1). Available: www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Vol142009/No1Jan09/Obesity-in-Older-Adults.aspx