As we work to protect ourselves during this pandemic – and prepare ourselves for the next one – health officials need to be clear about the connection between obesity and Covid-19. Obesity increases the risk of respiratory failure, alters the immune system and may cause chronic inflammation that can rapidly escalate out of control with coronavirus infection.After years of general discussions about needed lifestyle changes, the patient is diagnosed with a chronic disease, and then there is an intensive effort to prevent its irreversible consequences. If that sounds too good to be true, consider the current doctor-patient strategy for relatively complex chronic diseases, like type-two diabetes. Sure, this isn’t necessarily the most profitable way to practice medicine, but our patients most at risk of becoming obese don’t just deserve this type of intensive care. Federal and state governments should offer tax incentives to companies that provide their workers at least five hours a week to exercise during working hours. The government offers tax incentives for businesses to operate in specific areas or for individuals to adopt clean energy; those are good models for how this could work.
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