Obesity Triggers Soaring Health Costs

As Americans are gaining more and more girth and flab, their health care costs have jumped tenfold, says a new study published in the online edition of Health Affairs.

Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia found that treating conditions linked to obesity skyrocketed from $3.6 billion to $36.5 billion from 1987 to 2002, Emory University announced. (To put it another way, obesity-related health problems increased from 2 percent to 11.6 percent of all health spending.)

This means that for a typical obese adult, medical costs were $272 more (than for a normal-weight person) in 1987 to $1,244 more in 2002.

With some 30 million U.S. adults now obese, all are at risk for numerous chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.

Interestingly, it’s the increase in the number of cases treated, not an upswing in the cost per treated case, that’s mostly responsible for this surge in private healthcare spending, note the researchers, who were led by Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD., Emory University’s chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health, and a Robert W. Woodruff Professor.

More specifically, the study showed that the number of privately insured adults classified as obese rose from 12.6 percent in 1987 to 24 percent in 2002.

"We need to have the same type of societal attention on this issue that we gave to smoking 20 years ago," Dr. Thorpe told HealthDay.

Great idea.

Now let’s just get more folks to realize that getting ample exercise, eating more high-quality foods, cutting out or drastically cutting back on nutrient-deficient sweets and processed carbs, eating modest portion sizes (none of this supersizing nonsense) are effective ways to get rid of that excess weight so they don’t have to make so many trips to the doctor.