Study estimates obesity prevention could save $158 billion over 10 years


Reducing the average body mass index (BMI) of U.S. citizens by five percent could reduce obesity-related costs by more than $158 billion over 10 years, according to a report published last week by The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).

The report, “Bending the Obesity Cost Curve,” showed that two-thirds of Americans are either obese or overweight and that obesity is directly related to more than 30 illnesses, notably Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer.

"Prevention is the key to halting the obesity epidemic, lowering healthcare costs and creating a long-term path to a healthier and economically sound America," said Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH, in a release announcing the study findings.

The study estimated that if current trends continue, nearly half of all U.S. men and women would be obese by 2030.

That rate of obesity could contribute to more than six million cases of Type 2 diabetes, five million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of cancer in the next two decades, the report stated. TFAH calculated that combined medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases would increase by $48-66 billion per year in the United States by 2030 and would also create a loss in economic productivity as high as $540 billion.

"The United States must address the obesity epidemic and provide communities -- through the Prevention Fund and other programs -- with the resources to change our sick care system to a true healthcare system that focuses on keeping people healthy in the first place and ensures today's children aren't at risk of living shorter, less healthy lives than their parents," added Levi.

A 2008 study conducted by TFAH, the Urban Institute, the New York Academy of Medicine and The Prevention Institute found that an investment of $10 per person per year in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition and prevent smoking and other tobacco use could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years.

The study showed a return on investment of roughly $3.10 for every $1 spent on community-based programs. Out of the $16 billion in projected savings, Medicare could save more than $5 billion, Medicaid could save more than $1.9 billion and private payers could save more than $9 billion.

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