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Horowitz: Obesity is a Big-Time Societal Expense

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

 

Rob Horowitz

If Americans who are obese in youth stay obese over the course of their lifetimes, the total price tag before it is all said and done could exceed $1.1 trillion.  These findings--part of a new study conductedby the Center on Social and Economic Dynamics at Brookings Institution, inpartnership with the World Food Center at the University of California-Davis—estimate the average lifetime cost of obesity in one individual as about $92,000 and thenumber of youths who are currently obese at 12.7 million.

Among the top societal costs of obesity, according to the Study, are reducedworkplace productivity and increased disability claims. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found in a previous report that it is a major cause of type 2diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension, arthritis and cancer, among other maladies. “More than 75 percent of hypertension casescan be attributed to obesity. And approximately one-third of cancer deaths arelinked to obesity or lack of physical activity,”

The average American is 24 pounds heavier today than in 1960 and one-in-three American adults are now obese. Overall, obesity rates for childrenare also increasing.  But cities and states who were early adopters of a comprehensive approach to obesity prevention in young low-income children are seeing declines.

The comprehensive approach is basic common sense: encouraging and providing opportunities for more exercise and hammering home the importance of healthy foods as well asensuring that all school meals are healthy: 

More specifically, it includes involving all community stakeholders, ensuring safe routes to school so children can walk and bike as well as making communities overall more pedestrian and bike friendly, requiring physical education in school, increasing after-school recreation programs, continually stressing healthy eating with parents and children, and facilitating easier access to healthier foods.

Recent academic work reinforces the importance of learning healthy food habits in the early years both at home and at school, as "unhealthy habits and preferencescan be difficult to unlearn”.

More broadly employing a comprehensive approach to obesity prevention—one that has achieved demonstrable results-- will not only improve the quality of individual lives; it will be a major cost-saver. Let’s start today.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant whoprovides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and pollingfor national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science atthe University of Rhode Island.

 

Related Slideshow: New England’s Healthiest States

The United Health Foundation recently released its 2013 annual reoprt: America's Health Rankings, which provides a comparative state by state analysis of several health measures to provide a comprehensive perspective of our nation's health issues. See how the New England states rank in the slides below.

 

Definitions

All Outcomes Rank: Outcomes represent what has already occurred, either through death, disease or missed days due to illness. In America's Health Rankings, outcomes include prevalence of diabetes, number of poor mental or physical health days in last 30 days, health disparity, infant mortality rate, cardiovascular death rate, cancer death rate and premature death. Outcomes account for 25% of the final ranking.

Determinants Rank: Determinants represent those actions that can affect the future health of the population. For clarity, determinants are divided into four groups: Behaviors, Community and Environment, Public and Health Policies, and Clinical Care. These four groups of measures influence the health outcomes of the population in a state, and improving these inputs will improve outcomes over time. Most measures are actually a combination of activities in all four groups. 

Diabetes Rank: Based on percent of adults who responded yes to the question "Have you ever been told by a doctor that you have diabetes?" Does not include pre-diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy.

Smoking Rank: Based on percentage of adults who are current smokers (self-report smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke).

Obesity Rank: Based on percentage of adults who are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher.

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/

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6. Rhode Island

Overall Rank: 19

Outcomes Rank: 30

Determinants Rank: 13

Diabetes Rank: 26

Smoking Rank: 14

Obesity Rank: 13

 

Strengths:

1. Low prevalence of obesity

2. High immunization coverage among adolescents

3. Ready availability of primary care physicians  

Challenges:

1.High rate of drug deaths

2. High rate of preventable hospitalizations

3. Large disparity in heath status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/RI

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5. Maine

Overall Rank: 16

Outcomes Rank: 25

Determinants Rank: 12

Diabetes Rank: 23

Smoking Rank: 29

Obesity Rank: 28

 

Strengths:

1. Low violent crime rate

2. Low percentage of uninsured population

3. Low prevalence of low birthweight  

Challenges:

1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2.High rate of cancer deaths

3. Limited availability of dentists

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/ME

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4. Connecticut

Overall Rank: 7

Outcomes Rank: 15

Determinants Rank: 4

Diabetes Rank: 16

Smoking Rank: 4

Obesity Rank: 12

 

Strengths:

1. Low prevalence of smoking

2. Low incidence of infectious diseases

3. High immunization coverage among children & adolescents  

Challenges:

1. Moderate prevalence of binge drinking

2. Low high school graduation rate

3. Large disparity in health status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/CT

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3. New Hampshire

Overall Rank: 5

Outcomes Rank: 7

Determinants Rank: 5

Diabetes Rank: 16

Smoking Rank: 11

Obesity Rank: 22

 

Strengths:

1. Low percentage of children in poverty

2. High immunization coverage among children

3. Low infant mortality rate  

Challenges:

1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2.High incidence of pertussis infections

3. Low per capita public health funding

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/NH

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2. Massachusetts

Overall Rank: 4

Outcomes Rank: 14

Determinants Rank: 3

Diabetes Rank: 10

Smoking Rank: 7

Obesity Rank: 2

 

Strengths:

1. Low prevalence of obesity

2. Low percentage of uninsured population

3. Ready availability of primary care physicians & dentists  

Challenges:

1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2. High rate of preventable hospitalizations

3. Large disparity in health status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/MA

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1. Vermont

Overall Rank: 2

Outcomes Rank: 12

Determinants Rank: 1

Diabetes Rank: 4

Smoking Rank: 9

Obesity Rank: 5

 

Strengths:

1. High rate of high school graduation

2. Low violent crime rate

3. Low percentage of uninsured population  

Challenges:

1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2. Low immunization coverage among children

3. High incidence of pertussis infections

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/VT

 
 

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