The Cost of Obesity Related Diseases Will Make You Sick–The Economics of Exercise

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Yeah Baby!

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 50 years,

or cryogenically frozen Austin Powers-style, you are well aware of the skyrocketing costs of health care in America.

Every election cycle it becomes a huge topic of debate, and after every election the politicians forget about it.

And the costs keep rising.

A huge driver of the rapidly increasing health care costs is the ever increasing percentage of our population that is becoming obese. The CDC estimates that about 1/3 of our adult population is currently obese, and current projections estimate well over 50% of the adult population will be overweight by the year 2030.

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Image by Tobyotter via Flickr

As more of our population becomes obese, the incidence of diseases associated with obesity also increases, and this is what is driving a lot of the health care costs we are currently experiencing. Cancer, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke are just some of the diseases with a strong link to obesity, and the treatment associated with treating these diseases aren’t cheap. Currently, it is estimated that we collectively spend between $147-$210 billion dollars each year treating diseases related to obesity, and if current projections are correct that could rise by another $48-$66 billion by 2030.

Where Do Those Figures Come From?

When estimating the total costs of treating diseases that are strongly associated with obesity, you must consider two factors, the direct and indirect costs of treatment.

Direct costs are much easier to figure. They include costs of inpatient and outpatient services, possible surgery, diagnostic testing, blood work, radiology, and anything else directly related to caring for the patient’s disease.

Indirect costs are a little bit trickier. These costs are defined as “resources forgone as a result of a health condition”. Things such as a loss of work productivity fall into this category. A resultant increase in the price on getting insurance coverage is another indirect cost of being obese, and the diseases you are more likely to suffer from because of the excess body weight.

Now What?

If we don’t get out in front of these costs, eventually they will completely overwhelm our country, and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

The time has come for each and every person to look at themselves in the mirror and be honest with themselves about their current physical state. If people reduced their BMIs by as little as 5%, it would literally save billions in future health care spending. And as Congress and the President get ready to go to battle in creating a budget and decreasing our deficit, saving billions would go a long way to help on that front as well.

It starts with each of us. And if everyone does his or her own part, the impossible becomes very possible. Solving our obesity crisis won’t happen over night. It won’t even happen this year. But we can put a huge dent in it if we all start pushing in the same direction. Less fast food, more fruits and veggies. Less driving around the block to visit friends, more walking or riding bikes.

If we can just get the ball rolling, we really can make a difference in how much it costs to treat the myriad of diseases that are associated with obesity.

Start pushing.

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8 Comments

Filed under Lifestlye

8 responses to “The Cost of Obesity Related Diseases Will Make You Sick–The Economics of Exercise

  1. Correct. What I don’t get is how in the last two decades we focused so much on the healthcare costs of smoking, and obesity has been practically sidestepped.

    • No kidding. Probably because smoking can cause problems for non-smokers, while on the surface obesity only effects those that are obese. Though now we are starting to realize, that the costs of obesity effect everyone, so hopefully we as a community/state/country will start to get the word out about the costs of obesity–economic and otherwise.

  2. Health economists have long warned that obesity is a driving force behind the rise in health spending. For example, diabetes costs the nation $190 billion a year to treat, and excess weight is the single biggest risk factor for developing diabetes. Moreover, obese diabetics are the hardest to treat, with higher rates of foot ulcers and amputations, among other things.

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