Friday, June 29, 2012

The Obesity Epidemic and its Cost

More than one-third of U.S. adults (over 72 million people) and 17% of U.S. children are obese. During 1980–2008, obesity rates doubled for adults and tripled for children. During the past several decades, obesity rates for all population groups—regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education level, or geographic region—have increased markedly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report in which they indicated that an estimated 42% of Americans will be obese by the year 2030.

 Obesity and Florida

In the fall 2003, Governor Jeb Bush formed the Governor's Task Force on the Obesity to make recommendations regarding the problem of overweight and obesity in Florida. In the executive summary for the task force’s final report, Zachariah P. Zachariah, M.D. Chair of the Task Force, states, "Obesity is second only to tobacco use as a threat to public health. Its implications include serious health consequences such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicates that one out of four children who are overweight have early signs of type 2 diabetes. Additionally a recent study by the RAND Corporation, a research and development institution concludes that obesity is linked to higher rates of chronic health conditions than smoking, drinking or poverty."

That statement was made in 2004, and eight years later the increase in the rate of overweight and obesity Floridians has gone unabated. The recommendations of the task force can be found at:
Financial Consequences of Obesity

Obesity takes a toll on physical health, but it also places a financial burden o the health care delivery system to treat increased illness as a result of obesity-related health challenges. Erik Finklestein, PH.D and others have estimated that as much as $75 billion dollars of our public health cost bill as attributable to obesity in 2003, about half of which was publically financed.

Obesity, its impact on medical cost in Florida and on state budget dollars is problematic in light of growing number of citizen eligible for and utilizing Medicaid. Since 2000 the percent of the entire state budget allocated to Medicaid has grown from 20.3% to 30.7% in 2012. The burden of obesity-related medical costs falls disproportionately on public health care in the U.S., draining resources from public programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Obesity accounted for 27 percent of the growth in real U.S. health care spending between 1987 and 2001.

In a unique study that departed from looking at historical costs of obesity, Kenneth E. Thorpe, Ph.D., and colleagues from Emory University developed an econometric model to estimate the growth of health care costs over time that are attributable to changes in obesity rates. This report provides projections of future health care costs directly attributable to obesity for each state and for the nation.
Major Findings
  • Obesity is growing faster than any previous public health issue our nation has faced. If current trends continue, 103 million American adults will be considered obese by 2018.
  • The U.S. is expected to spend $344 billion on health care costs attributable to obesity in 2018 if rates continue to increase at their current levels. Obesityrelated direct expenditures are expected to account for more than 21 percent of the nation’s direct health care spending in 2018.
  • If obesity levels were held at their current rates, the U.S. could save an estimated $820 per adult in health care costs by 2018 a savings of almost $200 billion dollars.
  • In the study the obesity level in Florida is projected to increase from 29.4% in 2008 to 35.8% in 2013 and  to 43.9%in 2018
  • Health care spending (millions of dollars) in Florida attributable to obesity and obesity-related diseases is projected to increase from $4,873 in 2008, to $9,389 in 2013, and to $25,804 in 2018
  • If obesity-attributable health caring spending remained constant the state of Florida could realize a medical care saving of $2.6 billion for 2013 and $15.7 billion for 2018

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