Obesity causes supersized costs

Posted by Samantha Rose Hunt

Chicago (IL) - A study of the economic cost of obesity in California was released today by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA). The study determined that in the past six years, the cost of overweight, obese and inactive adults has doubled to about $41 billion each year.
 
The report followed up on a study conducted in 2000 and shows a 33% increase in obesity, which has led to greater costs of healthcare and loss of productivity.  In 2000, it was determined by Chenoweth and Associates, a health econometrics consulting firm in North Carolina, that a higher percentage of annual costs was claimed by obese and overweight individuals. The company predicted that the costs will continue to climb and could reach more than $53 billion by 2011.

“To put this in perspective, the economic cost to California of adults who are obese, overweight and physically inactive is equivalent to more than a third of the state’s total budget,” stated California State Controller John Chiang. “Think of the programs we could protect, the children we could educate and the families we could help if we could recapture those dollars by investing in prevention. These figures demonstrate the real and very unsettling financial impact of the obesity epidemic on a California economy already in crisis.”

The study authors believe that minor improvements to health could have a substantial impact on the state’s finances. A 5% improvement in the physical activity rate and healthy weight during the next five years may reduce obesity costs by $12 billion.

“The obesity crisis may seem overwhelming, but California has successfully tackled big health issues before,” stated Kim Belshé, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, who aided in the design and lead the state’s nationally recognized tobacco programs.
 
“The key is to establish concrete changes at the federal, state, and local level to make it easier for people to make healthier choices. This study shows that if those changes can help just one Californian in twenty reduce their weight and become more physically active, we could realize significant savings and begin to turn this crisis around.”