March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics aimed at “making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.” (1) In the United States, two-thirds of adults and one–third of children are now overweight or obese, resulting in immense societal costs and $168 billion in annual medical costs. (2) Current estimates suggest that half of all Americans will be obese by 2030. (3)
According to a 2009 Gallup study of 187 U.S. metro areas, “the direct costs associated with obesity and related chronic conditions are about $50 million per 100,000 residents annually in cities with the highest rates of obesity.” (4) If all of these 187 cities reduced their obesity rates by 15%, “the U.S. could save $32.6 billion in healthcare costs annually.” (4) In February 2011, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs released a report called “Gaining Costs, Losing Time: The Obesity Crisis in Texas,” (5) in which she reported that two-thirds of all Texans were overweight or obese, costing Texas businesses $9.5 billion. If trends continue, the projected cost of obesity on Texas businesses will be $32.5 billion by 2030.
The cost-effectiveness of interventions for obesity
Over the years, a number of obesity prevention methods have emerged, including school-based, community-based, surgical, pharmaceutical and workplace interventions. School-based obesity prevention interventions have proven critical, given that rates of childhood obesity have tripled in just the last generation. (6) The Coordinated Approach to Child Health, a school-based obesity prevention intervention, was the most cost-effective method of those analyzed in a recent Campaign to End Obesity report, with an estimated cost per QALY saved of $900. (3) While a search of the CEA Registry indicates that many behavioral or pharmaceutical obesity interventions meet the widely used cost-effectiveness threshold of $50,000/QALY, behavioral modifications for obesity prevention, including diet and exercise, have actually proven to have cost-savings.
- The CEA Registry Team
1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Available here
2. Campaign to End Obesity. – Advancing America’s Journey to Healthy Weight. Available here
3. Assessing the Economics of Obesity and Obesity Treatment. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation . March 2012. Available here
4. The Cost of Obesity to U.S. Cities. GALLUP Management Journal. Available here
5. Gaining Costs, Losing Time: The Obesity Crisis in Texas. 2011 Report. Available here
6. Childhood Overweight and Obesity. Centers for Disease control and Prevention Available here