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Obesity Costs the U.S. an Estimated $147 Billion

The annual medical burden of obesity has risen to almost 10 percent of all medical spending and could total $147 billion per year, said researchers earlier today.

The study findings, which were published online in the journal Health Affairs, were being presented this week at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) first ever Weight of the Nation Conference.

The results showed that an obese person has $1,429 per year more medical costs or almost 50% more costs than someone of normal weight. The results also reveal that drug payments for obese individuals are about $600 more per year than drug payments for normal weight persons.

Approximately two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. During 1980 – 2004, obesity among U.S. adults doubled, with an estimated 33% of adults overweight and another 34% who are obese.

Approximately one fifth of U.S. children are overweight or obese. This number increased substantially during 1999 – 2004.

Reversing the obesity epidemic requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach that uses policy and environmental change to promote healthy lifestyles in the U.S.

To address this issue, the CDC initiated the Common Community Measure for Obesity Prevention Project (the Measures Project). The goal of the Measures project was to recommend a set of prevention strategies that can be implemented and measured in communities, medical care, schools and workplaces.

The panel process for the Measures Projects identified 24 strategies for obesity prevention that are divided into six categories: 1) availability of affordable healthy food and beverages, 2) support healthy food and beverage choices, 3) encourage breast feeding, 4) encourage physical activity or limit sedentary activity among children and youth, 5) safe communities that support physical activity, and 6) encourage communities to organize for change.

This week’s Weight of the Nation conference will provide a forum for public health experts, policy leaders and researchers to discuss the study findings and new recommendations in the prevention and control of obesity through policy and environmental strategies.

The Bottom Line

The obesity and prevention strategies recommended by the Measures Project represent a shift in focus away from the individual toward the community. This is a good idea. Similar pilot studies like EPODE (translated, “together let’s prevent obesity in children”) in Europe have demonstrated that this is a successful approach.

While overweight and obesity is an issue for adults, of great concern is the problem in young children. Adopting community based strategies to teach kids at an early age the value of healthy eating and physical exercise will pay big dividends.

Kids learn not by what their parents say but what they do. Provide a good example by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle yourself.

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