AsianScientist (Apr. 9, 2014) – Childhood obesity comes with an estimated price tag of an additional US$19,000 per child when comparing lifetime medical costs to those of a normal weight child, according to an study published in Pediatrics. When multiplied by the number of obese ten-year-olds in the United States, lifetime medical costs for this age alone reach roughly US$14 billion.
An alternative estimate, which takes into account the possibility of normal weight children gaining weight in adulthood, reduces the cost to US$12,660 per obese child.
The researchers, from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore and Duke Global Health Institute, updated and evaluated the existing evidence on lifetime costs of childhood obesity to determine a current estimate for lifetime medical costs.
A key global health issue, obesity is known to be a risk factor for many diseases including cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes and certain cancers. Moreover, studies show most obese children and teenagers remain obese into adulthood, hence the urgency of addressing childhood obesity.
“In order to understand the cost implications of obesity prevention efforts, it is necessary to accurately quantify the burden of childhood obesity if left untreated,” said lead author Professor Eric Andrew Finkelstein at Duke-NUS.
The researchers noted that their study did not take into account indirect costs, including absenteeism and lost productivity in working adults, and the importance of other factors in addressing childhood obesity.
“While the cost estimates are significant, the motivation to prevent childhood obesity should be there regardless of the financial implications,” said Finkelstein.
The article can be found at: Finkelstein et al. (2014) Lifetime Direct Medical Costs of Childhood Obesity.
Source: Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School; Photo: Stan Dalone & Miran Rijavec/Flickr/CC.
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