Jewish Journal

The Real Costs of Obesity in this Country

by Rebecca Cooper

August 22, 2011 | 12:26 pm

Although President Obama is trying to correct the health care system, there can be no solution with the increasing obesity problem. The cost of obesity and eating disorders are bankrupting our nation.
Obesity alone is costing the American healthcare system more than $100 billion annually. And while there’s some overlap, diabetes costs nearly $150 billion, cancer care costs more than $200 billion, and heart disease costs more than $300 billion annually, according to studies by the National Institutes of Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the following:

• $127 million during 1997–1999 up from $35 million during 1979–1981.
• In 2000, the total cost of obesity in the United States was estimated to be $117 billion—$61 billion for direct medical costs and $56 billion for indirect costs.
• In 1996, $31 billion of treatment costs (in year 2000 dollars) for cardiovascular disease among adults was related to overweight and obesity.
• Obesity rates have skyrocketed nationwide in the past two decades. In 1990, no state had a rate above 20 percent obesity. By 2007, every state but one did: Colorado was at 18.9 percent.
Reasons for Increasing National Weight

A new study released July 2009 by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation suggest, as the economy declines the obesity rate will rise nationwide for the following reasons.

• nutritious foods are often more expensive than empty calories.
• worries over the recession are triggering increased depression, anxiety and stress, which often can be linked to obesity.
• older baby boomers obesity rate for 50 to 64-year-olds is higher than the rate for people over age 64.
• Medicare spends anywhere from $1,400 to $6,000 more per year on obese seniors than non-obese seniors.
• money goes to treatments for obesity-related ailments such as diabetes and knee problems.
• Successful heart disease treatment unfortunately trades mortality for disability.
Loss of Productivity

The mortality is decreasing but the rate of disability begins to climb as BMI exceeds 30. Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007
People with Class III obesity (over 40 BMI) are 9 times more likely than normal-weight individuals to be disabled due to the extra weight. Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007
Mild obesity of 30 to 35 BMI increases life with disability by up to three years. here is is a list of additional costs directly or indirectly related to disordered eating:

• diabetes costs nearly $150 billion
• cancer care costs more than $200 billion
• heart disease costs more than $300 billion annually (National Institutes of Health)

Some practical Solutions:

• The cost of fresh and healthier food need to be affordable for all.
• Fresh and healthier food needs to be the default choice instead of processed fattening vending machine foods
• Educational awareness about the dangers of using food for emotional reason, eating disorders, and healthy eating.
• Schools need to provide nutritious breakfast and lunch programs
• Schools needs to reinstate physical education as a mandatory class
• Have hands-on vegetable gardening classes that excite kids about eating what they grow
• Provide food options that are low in fat, calories, and added sugars
• Reduce time spent watching television and in other sedentary behaviors
• Encourage families to sit down at the dinner table together, at least a few days a week

We can slow down the obesity rate in this country if we work together on this increasing, and very expensive, problem.

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Rebecca Cooper is a California licensed therapist, Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and the Founder of Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs™. She is the...

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