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The Cost Of Obesity - $147 Billion Annually

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, July 27, 2009 2:04 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Obesity, BMI, Overweight, Childhood Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Care Costs, Obama, Exercise

Obesity is a major contributor to the cost of health care upward of $147 billion annually, says this CDC report.

The Cost of Health Care – Obesity



IMAGE SOURCE: ©Wikimedia Commons / waist circumference / author: Pharos, FDA Dietary Guidelines


The cost between rising obesity rates and rising medical costs is undeniable.

That is the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Health Affairs, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Research Triangle Institute (RTI). 

America’s ballooning weight problem now affects about 25 percent of adults, up from 18.3 percent a decade ago.  Obesity, known to contribute to diabetes could cost Americans $147 billion a year.    

Compare that to a decade ago, when the medical costs of obesity were estimated to be as high as $78.5 billion.

Obesity rates in the U.S. grew 37 percent between 1998 and 2006, reports AFP, which increased the cost of health care by $40 billion a year.  At the same time, a decade ago all medical spending accounted for 6.5 percent and now accounts for 9.1 percent

The money comes from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers and includes prescription drugs.  Obese people spent $1,429 or 42 percent more for medical care in 2005 than normal weight people.

Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) rate of over 30.   

Lead author, Eric Finkelstein, who heads RTI International's Public Health Economic Program, along with researchers from the CDC and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, find that the bulk of the expenditure, $191 billion a year, goes to treating obesity-linked diseases.

Health Affairs is owned and published by Project HOPE- The People-to-People Health Foundation based in Bethesda, Maryland.  

The CDC is releasing the study’s findings along with the recommendations at the “Weight of the Nation” conference, a three-day meeting of public health experts underway in Washington, D.C.  

Community Strategies

Communities can tackle the problem by promoting health and exercise.

“Obesity is a risk for a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers," said William H. Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. "Reversing this epidemic requires a multifaceted and coordinated approach that uses policy and environmental change to transform communities into places that support and promote healthy lifestyle choices for all people."

Recommendations for communities include:  Locating schools within walking distances of residential areas and making affordable, healthier food and drinks more available. 

About two thirds of U.S. adults and one fifth of U.S. children are obese or overweight.  A study released in May found that weight gain is primarily due to an increase in food intake.

The study released this spring  by Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia and released at the European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam finds Americans are eating more than they did 30 years ago.  Professor Boyd A. Swinburn, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention, tells Reuters that a decline in physical activity likely plays a minor role.

The CDC reports that besides food intake and exercise, access to full-service grocery stores, the high cost of healthier foods and a lack of safe parks and places to exercise. #

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