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Weight Loss Could Save $550 Billion in Health Care Costs

Almost half of Americans could be obese by 2030

| BY Donald Liebenson

Want to shed $550 billion in health care costs?

Almost half (42 percent) of the U.S. population could be obese by 2030, according to a forecasting study released Monday by the Duke Global Health Institute. The study also finds that the U.S. healthcare system could be burdened with 32 million more obese people within two decades. Those with severe obesity—defined as being 100 pounds overweight—could rise to 11 percent in that time.

“Keeping obesity rates level could yield a savings of nearly $550 billion in (health care costs),” Eric Finkelstein, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The study, released at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Weight of the Nation” conference in Washington, D.C., is based on data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and state-level data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other organizations. It also forecasts an increase to 11 percent in people with severe obesity, which is defined as roughly being 100 pounds overweight.

Those suffering with severe obesity are at the highest risk for health conditions caused by excess weight, such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep disorders, some types of cancer and other illnesses that could result in substantially greater health care costs and rates of absenteeism from work.

Obesity can be costly. According to the report, 27 percent of the rise in inflation-adjusted health care costs between 1987 and 2001 was due to the rising prevalence and costs of obesity, which may be as high as $147 billion per year, or 9 percent of annual medical expenditures.

Individuals with a body mass index greater than 35, which are grades II and III obese, the fastest-growing subset of the obese population, disproportionately account for 61 percent of medical costs, yet they only represent 37 percent of those who are obese.

This has “important implications” for employers, as they are charged with the increasing costs to insure full-time workers. “Employers should consider both the medical and productivity costs ob obesity when thinking about investments in weight management or other wellness programs,” Finkelstein observed.

He recommends the promotion of healthier foods in the workplace, economic and other incentives to employees who lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or participate in wellness activities such as joining a gym or walk-a-thons.



About the Author


Donald Liebenson

dliebenson@millionairecorner.com

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.