Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Obesity and Health Care in the Marvel Universe

reprinted from Newsweek.com

A new study (abstract only, unless you have a subscription) in Health Affairs by RTI International, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the CDC concludes that 9.1% of medical costs were spent on obesity in 2006, up from 6.5% in 2001. This comes out to approximately $40 billion in increased spending. Overall, people who are obese spent about 40% more on health care than did people of normal weight in 2006. Furthermore, the authors project that medical care spending for obesity could have hit $147 billion in 2008.

This is pretty grim news and should further corroborate the argument that much of the U.S.' exorbitant health care costs stem from poor dietary habits. This begs the question of why the government has not contracted some metahuman genius scientist, like Reed Richards, to invent some gizmo to curb such habits. After all, health care is a major agenda in the Obama administration, who is President of the Marvel Universe, and reducing costs is a big win for health reform.

You might think that such anti-obesity devices are unrealistic or infeasible in the real world. Well, a quick search on Google actually yielded this: some inventors have actually patented the design for some anti-obesity devices. The one described here looks like some sort of tube implanted in the stomach that is supposed to limit the absorption of food in the digestive system. There is also this device, a sort of "pacemaker" implanted into the abdomen, which tricks nerves in the stomach to making you feel that you're full when you've eaten a smaller portion.

These devices sound incredibly invasive, expensive and painful. And likely that's why many of us haven't heard about them. But these are just the developments made by ordinary humans. Surely, Mr. Fantastic can patent something much more friendly and hip, can't he? Can you imagine walking around with a hand-held anti-obesity device the size of an iPod?

If Obama is serious about bringing down health care costs, he should consider wielding the talents of some of Marvel's most brilliant heroes. People in Marvel's New York City really should all be skinny and have health insurance, but for some reason they don't. Let's get serious.

Does anybody actually know of an attempt to Richards or any other scientist (Marvel or DC) to do something like this or to help with domestic policy of any kind?


Marcelo @ Frontier Economy said...

Does anybody actually know of an attempt to Richards or any other scientist (Marvel or DC) to do something like this or to help with domestic policy of any kind?

You mean, besides the Superhuman Registration Act?

More seriously, I don't know. Richards is usually called for disasters, and Stark tries to keep a very tight rein on his technology (which is mostly about weapons anyway). Both in Marvel and in DC, general use of 'supertech' seems to be metatextually regarded as evil. Luthor sold tech through his Everyman project, but it was a trap anyway.

Funnily, in the Planetary/JLA crossover (which wasn't that, but rather a mashed-up universe), alternate!Bruce Wayne ranted about how The Four were keeping technology away from mankind, only giving away 'crumbs' like a superspeed fix derived from Flash DNA, medical uses of the Atom technology, etc. Those crumbs are way more than what the DC universe ever got --- an irony, I think, Warren Ellis fully intended. The whole of Planetary might very well be read as a rant against Reed Richard's (and the FF in general) selfishness.

Sean Kleefeld said...

IIRC, Reed mentioned that he was expressly paid by drug companies to NOT release his cure for acne. I believe this was mentioned early in Mark Waid's run on the book. The presumption, of course, is that much of Reed's fortune is essentially hush money from corporate America.

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