Nearly 10 Percent of Health Spending for Obesity

By: AP
By: AP

WASHINGTON – Obesity's not just dangerous, it's expensive. New research shows medical spending averages $1,400 more a year for an obese person than for someone who's normal weight. Overall obesity-related health spending reaches $147 billion, double what it was nearly a decade ago, says the study published Monday by the journal Health Affairs.

The higher expense reflects the costs of treating diabetes, heart disease and other ailments far more common for the overweight, concluded the study by government scientists and the nonprofit research group RTI International.

RTI health economist Eric Finkelstein offers a blunt message for lawmakers trying to revamp the health care system: "Unless you address obesity, you're never going to address rising health care costs."

Two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, and the average American today is 23 pounds overweight, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Obesity and with it diabetes are the only major health problems that are getting worse in this country, and they're getting worse rapidly," Frieden said Monday at the CDC's first major conference on the obesity crisis.

It's not an individual problem but a societal problem — as the nation's health bill illustrates — that will take society-wide efforts to reverse, Frieden stressed. His agency last week released a list of strategies it wants communities to try. They include: increasing healthy foods and drinks in schools and other public venues; building more supermarkets in poor neighborhoods; encouraging more mothers to breast-feed, which protects against childhood obesity; and discouraging consumption of sodas and other sweetened beverages.

The average American consumes 250 more daily calories today than two or three decades ago, 120 of them from those kinds of drinks, Frieden said. Science suggests that while eating a candy bar before dinner will spoil your appetite, liquid calories don't — you won't cut back on dinner if you have a sugary soda first.

He said there's some evidence that adding a tax to those drinks might help curb consumption, although he stressed that wasn't a view of the Obama administration.

The new Health Affairs study found obesity-related conditions now account for 9.1 percent of all medical spending, up from 6.5 percent in 1998. During that time, the obesity rate rose 37 percent.

On average, health bills for a normal-weight person are about $3,400 a year, but that rises to $4,870 for someone who's obese, Finkelstein said. Prescription drugs are the biggest driver of those costs: Medicare spends about $600 more per year on medications for an obese beneficiary than a normal-weight one.

Health economists have long warned that obesity is a driving force behind the rise in health spending. For example, diabetes costs the nation $190 billion a year to treat, and excess weight is the single biggest risk factor for developing diabetes. Moreover, obese diabetics are the hardest to treat, with higher rates of foot ulcers and amputations, among other things.

The new study's look at per-capita spending may offer a shock to the wallets of people who haven't yet heeded health warnings.

"Health care costs are dramatically higher for people who are obese and it doesn't have to be that way," said Jeff Levi of the nonprofit Trust for America's Health, who wasn't involved in the new research.

"We have ways of changing behavior and changing those health outcomes so that we don't have to deal with the medical consequences of obesity," added Levi, who advocates community-based programs that promote physical activity and better nutrition.


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  • by tim Location: hillsdale mi on Jul 29, 2009 at 06:47 AM
    To fix a problem you must admit what caused the problem and get rid of that problem.Or it don't get fixed.People should eat healthy.People should get out and do things.It's not only adults with depression but many kids.I agree with tina,most quit smoking they GAIN weight.At the price of federal tax on ciggs now,they should be able to fund all kinds of programs.After all the price raise will cause many to stop and they WILL gain weight.Which is just as unhealthy.Stop one thing get another thing.Weight gain can lead to diabetes.Yet programs get wacked to help diabetics.Many things COST MONEY to stay slim and fit.There's price tags on to many things.People can't afford due to job loss.That alone has it's problems.Otherwise say what one wants till the real reasons are delt with of why people get over weight,people will be just that.Community basd programs?Free?Nothing is FREE.Someone or something funds it.Local govs can't even keep roads plowed in the winter?Budget problems.
  • by tina Location: michigan on Jul 28, 2009 at 06:39 AM
    Look at many kids in householdsall over.Sitting on the computer,all the games kids must plat,hour after hour.Look at the diets poor people eat due to higher prices of the healthy stuff.Look at all thoes depressed for the many having money problems.We can all figure on many stopping smoking due to the extreme price tax raise on tobbacco products.Stop smokung many start eating more.Then we see people loose jobs and become homebound couch potatoes.Depending on what ones income is has alot to do with what treatments one can get.Programs?Are they all free or wieght loss programs?No.Speaking of diabetes,medicade program of mich stoped eye care,and foot care.For all.Two things diabetics need.Yet jenn must not care about what diabetic need or exceptions of these people on medicad would of been understood.For diabetics blindness can occure,or loss of feet and legs if not seen by these type of doctors.Low income ones have issues.Prices of so many things.Yet what caused job loss,that caused what?
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