Health care costs to bulge along with U.S. waistlines

(CNN) — America is getting fatter, according to a new report, and bulging waistlines will rack up big health care expenditures within the next two decades.

The report, from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, draws on previously published government data to make predictions about what consequences an upward obesity trend would have for individual states.

It also projects that the health of the country — and the dollars spent on the health care system — would benefit from even a 5% reduction in the average body mass index. The report is called “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found, in data published in August, that Mississippi is the country’s leader in adult obesity, at 34.9%. That number could rise to 66.7% by 2030, the new report found.

The new analysis also projected that obesity rates in 13 states could rise above 60% among adults by 2030. By that year, every state in the nation may have adult obesity rates above 44%, including 39 states with rates higher than 50%, the report said.

This is consistent with a 2012 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which concluded that by 2030, 42% of adults will be obese. That study forecast $550 billion in health care spending from now to 2030 as a result of rising obesity rates.

More obesity leads to more disease, and money

Between 2010 and 2020, new cases of Type 2 diabetes could increase tenfold; so could stroke, coronary heart disease, hypertension and arthritis. The number of cases could double again by 2030, the report said.

“(If) we stay on the current track, we’re going to see unacceptably high rates of obesity, and more importantly, unacceptably high rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity-related cancers, arthritis, that will really place a huge burden on our health care system,” said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for American Health.

Other data have also suggested diabetes increases. A 2010 analysis from UnitedHealth Group’s Center for Health Reform and Modernization found that more than half of Americans will have diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2020. The researchers said these diseases will account for nearly $500 billion in total health care spending.

Current estimates suggest that the yearly medical cost of adult obesity today is between $147 billion and $210 billion, the study said. The report found that by 2030, an extra $48 billion to $66 billion per year may be spent treating preventable diseases associated with obesity.


But there is hope, if adults across America would reduce their body mass index, the report said. If the average body mass index were lowered by 5% by 2030, states could save billions of dollars while helping many people. That’s the equivalent of a 200-pound, 6-foot-tall person losing 10 pounds.

In this scenario, the report found, more than 100 cases of obesity-related cancer for every 100,000 people would be prevented in all states. Nearly 800,000 Californians would avoid diabetes, and about 660,000 Californians would avoid a stroke or coronary heart disease.
And savings in health care costs could be between 6.5% and 7.9% in most states, the report said.

The report recommends several policy interventions, such as increasing physical activity in schools, supporting healthy nutrition, putting in place new standards for school meals, and promoting preventive health care services.

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