Adult Obesity: More Pounds, More Health Care Dollars

Americans continue to add pounds to their weight despite the well-documented association of obesity to a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and even many forms of cancer. In 39 states, adult obesity rates exceeded 25 percent in 2011. More alarming is that a new study projects obesity rates for adults could top more than 50 percent in all but 11 states and the District of Columbia by 2030. Reducing the average body mass index in every state by 5 percent would save between 6.5 percent and 7.8 percent in health care spending in every state, a savings totaling $642 billion nationally by 2030. 

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New adult obesity rates show Americans continue to add pounds to their weight despite the proliferation of educational materials on the association of obesity to a number of chronic  diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and even many forms of cancer.

  • In Mississippi and Louisiana, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data for 2011, more than one in three adults met the CDC definition of obese, a body mass index of 30 or more.
  • In another 10 states—Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia—more than 30 percent of residents were obese.
  • Only the District of Columbia and 11 states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Utah—had obesity rates less than 25 percent.
  • Twenty-six of the 30 states with the highest obesity rates are in the Midwest and South.1
An analysis released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert W. Johnson Foundation projects obesity rates for states in 2030 will continue a rapid rise if the current trajectory continues. With climbing obesity rates, the report also predicts an increase in chronic illnesses.
  • Obesity rates for adults could top more than 50 percent in all but 11 states and the District of Columbia, from a projected high of 66.7 percent in Mississippi to a low of 44.8 percent in Colorado and 32.6 percent in the District of Columbia.
  • Obesity rates will more than double by 2030 in 23 states under the modeling of the report.
  • New cases of diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, and arthritis could increase tenfold between 2010 and 2020—and then double again by 2030.
  • Health care costs related to obesity and associated chronic diseases could increase by more than 10 percent in 43 states, and by twice as much in nine states.2
Research, however, points to effective programs to reverse obesity trends, reduce the incidence of chronic disease and lower health care costs. Reducing the average body mass index in every state by 5 percent would save between 6.5 percent and 7.8 percent in health care spending.
  • The possible savings by 2030 projected from a 5 percent drop in BMI range from $81 billion in California to $1.1 billion in Wyoming and $1 billion in the District of Columbia.
  • The national savings would total $642 billion over the next 20 years.3
  • A number of scientific studies point to the benefits from an intentional loss of 5 to 10 percent of body weight.4  The benefits include such things as reducing the risk of acquiring chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, as well as decreasing deaths due to obesity-related cancers and diabetes.
The CDC recommends six community strategies to prevent obesity. Legislators and other policymakers should:
  • Promote the availability of affordable healthy food and beverages;
  • Support healthy food and beverage choices; 
  • Encourage breastfeeding;
  • Encourage physical activity or limit sedentary activity among children and youth;
  • Create safe communities that support physical activity; and
  • Encourage communities to organize for change.5

References:

1 Levi, Jeff, et. al. “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012.” Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 University of Missouri-Columbia. “Lifestyle Management of Adult Obesity.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Healthy Weight – it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.” 
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States.” July 2009. 

 

Adult Obesity: More Pounds, More Health Care Dollars

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