If the U.S. population dropped 5 percent from the average body mass index, $29 billion could be saved in the healthcare industry in just five years, according to a new report from the Trust for America's Health. In 10 years, that number would grow to more than $158 billion and swell to nearly $612 billion in 20 years, it found.
Two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight, conditions that are linked to more than 30 illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer, according to "Bending the Obesity Cost Curve." If the country as a whole doesn't slim down, those who earn a doctorate degree or health and medicine degrees likely will have to deal with the epidemic in the future.
"Prevention is the key to halting the obesity epidemic, lowering healthcare costs and creating a long-term path to a healthier and economically sound America," said Dr. Jeff Levi, TFAH director and chair of the advisory group on prevention, health promotion, and integrative and public health. "The United States must address the obesity epidemic and provide communities - through the prevention fund and other programs - with the resources to change our sick care system to a true healthcare system that focuses on keeping people healthy in the first place and ensures today's children aren't at risk of living shorter, less healthy lives than their parents."
If the rates of obesity continue, more than 6 million cases of type 2 diabetes, 5 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of cancer would crop up in the next two decades, the study's researchers estimated.
In 1999, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began funding individual states' efforts to control obesity and related illnesses. The Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity now supports 25 states with a primary focus to create policy and environmental changes that will improve Americans' overall health.
To do so, the states supported by the CDC develop strategies to increase physical activity, boost the consumption of fruits and vegetables, decrease the consumption of sugar, increase breastfeeding efforts and decrease TV viewing. To do this, the programs aim to reduce health disparities related to socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, gender, geography, disability and age.