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The obesity price

The cost of obesity: US$19,000 per child

Lifetime costs for that age group alone reached roughly US$14 billion

US researchers looking at total lifetime medical costs have estimated that, childhood obesity costs US$19,000 more per child than lifetime costs for normal weight children.

"Reducing childhood obesity is a public health priority that has substantial health and economic benefits," said study lead, Dr Eric Andrew Finkelstein from the Duke Global Health Institute and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore. "These estimates provide the financial consequences of inaction and the potential medical savings from obesity prevention efforts that successfully reduce or delay obesity onset."

The study, which is publish in the journal Pediatrics, reviewed the literature to identify the best current estimate of the incremental lifetime per capita medical cost of an obese child in the US relative to a normal weight child reflected the costs from the perspective of a ten-year-old child today.

From six studies, they found that the incremental lifetime direct medical cost ranged from US$12,660 to US$19,630 when weight gain through adulthood among normal weight children is accounted for, and from US$16,310 to US$39,080 when this adjustment is not made.

"Public health interventions should be prioritized on their ability to improve health at a reasonable cost," added Finkelstein. "In order to understand the cost implications of obesity prevention efforts, it is necessary to accurately quantify the burden of childhood obesity if left untreated."

When the team multiplied the US$19,000 price tag by the number of obese ten-year olds in the US, the researchers found lifetime costs for that age group alone reached roughly US$14 billion.

"For the same reasons we don't let kids drink or smoke and force them to go to school, we should also do our best to keep them at a healthy weight," he said. "While the cost estimates are significant the motivation to prevent childhood obesity should be there, regardless of the financial implications."

 

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