This Just In – A New Disease!
NASH (Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis) isn’t really new, but it’s gaining rapidly in visibility – and its potential impact on workers’ comp and other health related exposures. NASH is one more insidious co-morbid complication of obesity with its own special talents for inhibiting RTW and turning simple claims into complex creeping cats.
NASH is worth your consideration because it is exploding on the American health scene, according to a recent CNBC report. Dr. Rohit Loomba, Chairman of the American Liver Foundation’s National Medical Advisory Committee, estimates that about 30 million Americans already have NASH. Including closely related fatty liver conditions under the umbrella term non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) brings the total of compromised Americans to about 80 to 100 million, almost one third of the population. Considering that this is a condition usually found only in adults, one in every three of your employees probably has some degree of fatty liver disease in progress. The number of deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis has risen every year since 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is now among the top 15 causes of death for Americans.
NASH, and other forms of NAFLD, attack the liver in much the same way that alcohol does – degrading the functions of this key organ until actual cirrhosis or liver cancer sets in. As the CNBC report notes, “perhaps the most alarming aspect of NAFLD, say researchers, is that in its mildest form it typically causes no signs or symptoms, isn’t readily picked up in a routine physical, and currently there are no drugs on the market to treat it…”
In other words, NASH and other fatty liver diseases are classic sleepers – you don’t see them coming. How many of your overweight employees think they’re still on the sunny side of God’s waiting room because their cholesterol and cardiac metrics are OK? We all may be looking at an incomplete set of numbers when we do our now standard health tests and reviews. Fatty liver is not hard to detect – but someone has to be looking for it. Is it on your company’s HR radar? Like other chronic lifestyle diseases – diabetes, COPD, several types of cardiac conditions – fatty liver can turn a routine comp injury into a horror story for all parties. Costly for you but far worse for the employee who probably had no idea this killer was stalking him or her. The bottom line for risk managers and benefits managers is the same – fat kills and when it doesn’t kill, it disables.
Employee obesity isn’t someone else’s problem.
The GB Journal is Gallagher Bassett’s semi-monthly quick reviews of new studies and related insights affecting risk management and self-insurance. For more information, please connect with GB on LinkedIn, follow us on Twitter, or contact the author, Dr. Gary Anderberg, directly. Reproduced with permission.