Monday, August 3, 2009

Obesity's Costs Emerge As Major Concern

“Obesity and its impact on health care costs have taken center stage in the debate about national health care reform. And it seems there may be as many ideas about how to address the problem as there are people who are obese. The issues converged last week when a national study estimated the cost of obesity at $147 billion annually, nearly double what it was 10 years ago; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held its first Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, D.C., and Congress debated how to account for wellness programs in the health care reform package. ‘If obesity was an infectious disease, it would be an epidemic,’ said Dr. Daniel Bessesen, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver and chief of endocrinology at the Denver Health Medical Center. ‘To ignore the problem, you're keeping your head in the sand. If you could fix the obesity problem ... you would make a huge impact on the nation's health care costs.’ But obesity is not just a health problem. It's a national economic problem that will become more prominent as the country debates the cost of health care reform. ‘These results reveal that obesity continues to impose an economic burden on both public and private payers,’ writes Dr. Eric Finkelstein, director of the Public Health Economics Program at the North Carolina-based RTI International, which produced the national study. ‘The connection between rising obesity rates and rising medical spending is undeniable.’

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