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PARIS -- Debate begins over whether or not social security should pay for exercise programs in hopes of fighting preventable diseases in France.
PARIS – Yoga class and gym memberships could be the next thing doctors prescribe patients in France. A recent report published by the National Academy of Medicine suggests that exercise should be on the list of prescriptions covered by social security. The report comes as various health groups encourage French business to get their workers moving to improve their health.
For those who chuckle at the idea of needing a prescription to work out, it may not be as outlandish as it seems. Exercise prescription is already in place in the U.K. where, in 2001, officials designed regulations as a preventive measure targeting at-risk patients by getting them moving. By prescribing activity, doctors aim to fight obesity, coronary disease, diabetes, and other related conditions that become more expensive to treat later in life. More exercise leads to better health – far from revelatory. But do the French really need state-funded exercise?
In Paris, for example, a monthly membership to the Club Med gym costs 80 euros, an arguably modest sum, but it adds up in a notoriously expensive city. Factor in hectic work schedules and few late night work-out options, and it’s less surprising that the French were scored among the least active in the European Union in a report found in the International Journal of Public Health.
In another study by the French health educational institute INEPS, 42 percent of respondents affirmed having exercised less than 10 minutes in the week prior to the interview. That's a far cry from the suggested 30 minutes a day. And let’s not even cite the 30 percent of the population that smokes regularly, adding to diseases and health issues.
Could the solution to an inactive lifestyle be found in prescribed and subsequently state-funded sports programs? With public pools and plenty of parks for jogging, the French may need a bigger push. According to the authors of the Academy’s report, it's up to the public powers to remedy the lack of physical activity in France to avoid preventable diseases that weight heavily on social security later in life. And the president, Francois Hollande, doesn’t completely disagree. He suggested that doctors prescribe more exercise instead of medications during a visit to the French National Sports Institute in July.
One study, however, shows that prescribed exercise could be beneficial in the long-run for the heavily burdened social security system. According to Jean-Pierre Davant, president of IMAPS, a French exercise advocacy and research group, the benefits are not just for the individual. "The moment that science teaches that physical activity is the best way to prevent pathologies like cancer and cardiovascular disease, it's erroneous to exclude such activity from the social security system," he said. IMAPS released a study recently projecting that paying just 150 euros in exercise programs for 10 percent of patients with long-term conditions would save the system 56.2 million euros per year.
A little bit of yoga could go a long way.
Parisian student, Marie Lagrue, isn't against state money going to prescribed exercise, as long as programs are monitored. "If it’s for preventative purposes, it could be just fine, but it has to be surveyed or else people could abuse it," she said. Like Davant, she sees the idea as an investment. "Paying for a few yoga classes is better than paying sick leave or disability later on," she said.
American expat Phyllis Flick also sees no problem with the idea, though both said that there are plenty of existing, yet underutilized ways to exercise. Flick’s job at the OECD in Paris offers sports and exercise programs, though French employees aren't necessarily queuing up to join. "We have tons of classes and there’s always something different, but it's mostly the foreign and international workers that take the classes," she said.
For Davant, the problem is not unique to Paris, but everywhere in the country, even if city dwellers are more prone, he said, to sedentary lifestyles in France. Some French doctors in Strasbourg, a major French city, are currently toying with the idea of prescribing exercise like biking and gym classes instead of medication. This month about 50 doctors launched a test program with 400 patients to see how exercise prescription would work in France.
But before any exercise programs are reimbursed nationwide, the government is encouraging employers to focus on sport and exercise programs for their workers. Nipping preventable conditions in the bud seems to be the ultimate goal, but it remains to be seen how the French will get there.
Davant is hopeful that the IMAPS report, in addition to the Academy of Medicine's advisory, will help convince the government to cover prescribed exercise. "It’s necessary to determine the most effective way to approach this," Davant said, "but we must absolutely react, obviously, to evolve our culture, especially this issue."
Photo: Cosmic Smudge
Nov 8, 2012
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is there something amiss with you people? We do have a Public Health agency in America at all levels of government. Is that communistic to some of you? Unfortunately, international corporations and the NRA seem to be in charge of how they operate. For example, the CDC is prohibited from studying gun violence - and we know that's a real and daily problem - but no science please. We know the FDA is prohibited from doing any original research, they may only use what the corporations turn over for review - and guess how complete and honest those reports are. So, what is every one ranting about? the US Chamber of Commerce will tell you all you need to know.
IF I lose my job, I get fat I get pregnant I get sick I am poor I don't make enough money THEN the government will pay me not to work. the government will pay me to exercise. the government will put me up in my own place, as long as I don't live with the Baby Daddy. the government will pay for my doctors and prescriptions the government will give me a free cell phone the government will pay me tax credits. Where does the government get their money? What do I care, they get it from someone that has too much.
all this bull about socialism. They are trying to save money by spending it on cheap exercise regimes rather than very expensive medical interventions (lasting years) later on, with the side effect of a fitter and more active population. Save money, geddit?
...then your health is the government, and everyone else's business. Get ready for the same thing here very soon...
'government could pay for' = Tax Consumers could spend more = Tax Consumers could force Tax Producers to pay more taxes. More taxes = higher prices = fewer Tax Producing jobs. 'state-funded exercise' = Tax Consumers forcing Tax Producers to pay for exercise. Tax Consumers produce more Tax Consumers when Tax Producers vote for Tax Consumers who support Tax Consumers more than Tax Producers.
Fascinating isn't it how some feel they have a right to steal the sweat from someone else's a$$..... The rationalization whom ever has more than I do has too much and I'm entitled to their productivity just amazes me.
@RHambeau, you got it! It's not really a question of universal health care (around for over half a century in France -- no debate necessary) but rather one of insurance covering exercise programs as prescriptions to prevent more costly ailments. Let's hope the uncertainty and anxiety over Obamacare doesn't cloud all logic...
...they'd be much better off letting people get sick, denying treatment, and then allowing them to die before they are old enough to retire and collect benefits while no longer contributing to the economy. This would also open up jobs to the young and unemployed, since socialist economies do not create jobs dynamically. Expect to see this line of thinking here in a decade or so.
This is about an already established national health insurance program in France covering exercise as an alternative to medicine and procedures down the road in life. No matter who's paying for it, private or public, it's also a question of *what* is being covered and how this could potentially be an advantage for us all no matter where we get our insurance...
Well, that's kind of the way it works in the UK...once you're near or of retirement age you're kind of rationed out of treatment (after all, you may not live long enough to "pay back" the expenses with your taxes). Therefore, the aim is to get you off the rolls. If you're well enough off and can afford the supplementary insurance it's not so bad. You're cooked if you're just subject to the NHS... A quote from a friend of mine from the UK that lives here..."You've no idea what you're letting yourself in for." Then they ask the question: "Are people here blind, can't they see how it really works?" I have no answer for them.........