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Report: Small body fat reduction would mean big health care savings

February 14, 2012
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obesityThe Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) has released a new report, Bending the Obesity Cost Curve, which finds that reducing the average body mass index by just five percent in the United States could lead to more than $29 billion in health care savings in just five years, due to reduced obesity-related costs. The analysis found that the country could save $158.1 billion in 10 years and $611.7 billion in 20 years.

“Prevention is the key to halting the obesity epidemic, lowering health care costs and creating a long-term path to a healthier and economically sound America,” said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH, who also serves as Chair of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.  “The Prevention and Public Health Fund is now providing resources to support the kind of evidence-based strategies that can achieve this five percent reduction in average BMI, which makes the Fund a critical component of our efforts to contain health care costs and improve the quality of life of Americans.”

Two-thirds of Americans are either obese or overweight, and obesity is related to more than 30 illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer.  The report notes that the rate of obesity among Medicare patients doubled from 1987 to 2002, and spending on those individuals more than doubled.

The study found that if current trends continue, obesity rates could be expected to grow from 32 percent to 50-51 percent for men and from 35 percent to 45-52 percent for women by 2030.

The study’s estimates predict these rates 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 combined medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48-66 billion per year in the United States by 2030 — while experiencing 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 health care 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,” Levi added.

The analysis is based on a model developed by researchers at the National Heart Forum. Micro Health Simulations used the model in a peer reviewed study, “Health and Economic Burden of the Projected Obesity Trends in the [United States and the United Kingdom],” published in 2011 in The Lancet.

Trust for America’s Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority. www.healthyamericans.org

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