May 7, 2012

Stopping Increase in Obesity Rates Could Save Nearly $550 Billion in Two Decades

Highlights

  • A new study found holding obesity rates steady could save nearly $550 billion by 2030
  • While obesity rates are slowing, the study forecasts they will rise to 42 percent in two decades
  • The study also predicts that the number of individuals with severe obesity will more than double by 2030
  • The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Duke University and RTI International

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Justin Trogdon
Justin Trogdon

Preventing obesity rates from increasing could save nearly $550 billion in medical expenditures over the next two decades, according to a new study from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Duke University and RTI International.

The study, "Obesity and Severe Obesity Forecasts through 2030," appears online today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and was released at CDC's Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, D.C.

Although the study finds that annual increases in rates of obesity are slowing, it still predicts that obesity rates will rise to 42 percent by 2030. Combined with population increases, this suggests the U.S. health care system will be burdened with 32 million more obese people within two decades.

The study also forecasts a more than doubling of the prevalence of individuals with severe obesity, defined as a body mass index over 40 or roughly 100 pounds overweight, to 11 percent by 2030.

Severely obese individuals are most at risk for the health conditions caused by excess weight and thus have substantially greater medical expenditures and rates of absenteeism.

"Keeping obesity rates level could yield a savings of nearly $550 billion in medical expenditures over the next two decades," said study author Eric Finkelstein, Ph.D., M.H.A., of Duke University.

"Should these forecasts prove accurate, the adverse health and cost consequences of obesity are likely to continue to escalate without a significant intervention," said study co-author Justin Trogdon of RTI.

"People need to make healthy choices, but the healthy choices must first be available and accessible in order to make them," said William H. Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. "In the coming days at our Weight of the Nation conference, CDC and its partners will emphasize the proven, effective strategies and solutions that must continue to be applied to help make the healthy choice the easy choice."

Accordingly, another highlight of CDC's Weight of the Nation conference will be the release of the Institute of Medicine's report, Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.

One of the most exhaustive reviews to date of obesity prevention-related recommendations, the report will identify strategies and action steps that have the greatest potential to speed up progress in combating the obesity crisis. The report will be released tomorrow, May 8, 2012.

To view "Obesity and Severe Obesity Forecasts through 2030," visit www.ajpmonline.org. To find out more about CDC's Weight of the Nation conference, visit www.cdc.gov/won.