Doctor says locals need to shape up

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  • | 12:00 p.m. November 27, 2001
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by Monica Chamness

Staff Writer

According to Dr. Todd Sack, president of the Duval County Medical Society, Jacksonvillians are in sad shape.

Sack, who spoke at Monday’s Meninak Club meeting at the Radisson, discussed why the locals are is such poor health.

“We have higher rates of tobacco use, more diabetes, more hypertension and more cancer than the average U.S. city,” said Sack, adding an unhealthy population is one factor contributing to the rising cost of health care locally.

Eight years ago St. Vincent’s conducted an exhaustive study on the astronomical level of lung cancer cases in Jacksonville and found that smoking coupled with a diet of Southern cooking were to blame.

Sack anticipates a 20 to 40 percent increase in premiums to employers as a result.

The good news is that the most dangerous problems — obesity, tobacco use and physical inactivity — are all correctable.

The hefty price tag of new technology and prescription drugs are also contributing factors in spiraling health care costs along with direct marketing campaigns aimed at an aging populaton and a more demanding body of patients.

Other factors include a rise in the number of malpractice suits and less competition in the marketplace because of the failure of many health care organizations in the late 1990s.

As far as reducing the number of malpractice suits, Sack suggested better education of nurses and doctors and better handwriting by physicians.

Higher standards of care and an emphasis on private diagnostic screening just compound the cost problem.

“HealthScreen America is like a lot of the herbal medicines available in the drug store: they’re untested, they’re by and large harmless, though occasionally they may be harmful,” said Sack.

To contain health care expenditures, Sack predicts physicians and health care employers will lobby the state legislature to replace HMOs with PPOs, Preferred Provider Organizations, which offer more choices but at a higher cost, meaning patients will be responsible for a larger percentage of total medical expenses.