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Public Health: The Cost of Obesity

Essay by   •  September 8, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,174 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,892 Views

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The Cost of Obesity

Recently in the United States health care reform has been a very contentious issue. The cost of healthcare is too high and the quality is too low. However the debate is not over whether or not health care should be reformed but instead how it should be reformed. One of the reasons there are different opinions on the matter is due to the many factors involved in the rising cost of health care. One such factor is the increase in the number of obese individuals across the United States. In recent years obesity has become one of the major health concerns in the United States. Because of chronic illness associated with obesity the cost of health care is driven higher. There are varying opinions on how this problem should be handled and in the future what complications it can cause.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines obesity as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1). Using a person's height and weight the BMI can be calculated and provides a reasonable indicator of body fat (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1). According to the CDC website about two-thirds of adults in the United States were obese in 2007-2008 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1). There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of obese individuals over the past 20 years including the number doubling from 1980 to 2000 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1). The website also states that obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1).

Traditionally because of these health risks it has been difficult for obese individuals to obtain private or individual insurance. Now with the problem becoming so widespread it is costing more than ever to provide health insurance for obese people. A study done by the CDC and RTI, a North Carolina based research center, say that the cost reach $147 billion dollars annually (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2). Annual medical costs caused by obesity have risen from 6.5 percent to 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2006 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2). The percentage increase includes spending by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers, and prescription drugs cost (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2). Obese individuals overall spent $1,429 dollars more for medical care in 2006 than normal weight individuals. This cost has also started to affect employers across the United States and it is costing businesses more than ever to provide health insurance for obese employees.

According to research conducted by Dr. Kenneth Thorpe and his collaborators almost 30 percent of the increase in health care cost from 1987 to 2001 can be attributed to obesity (United Health Foundation, The Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention). A New York Times article also states that a report by the Conference Board and RTI International, place the cost of obesity for businesses at $45 billion dollars (Holland). The article also claims that obese people tend to miss work more and that research done by Roland Sturm, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, suggest that obesity is a more powerful trigger for chronic health problem than either smoking or heavy drinking (Holland). Obesity has also started being treated as a disease within itself including surgery, therapy and prescriptions drugs which cause the costs of health care to increase (Holland). These increasing costs have resulted in different opinions on how to solve the problem of obesity and reduce the cost of health care related to conditions that may be caused by being overweight.

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