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States could dramatically cut health care costs and prevent obesity-related diseases if they reduce the average body mass index (BMI) of their residents by just 5% by 2030, according to a new analysis in the F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012 report.
The report, released this week by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), also shows that if adult obesity rates continue on their current trajectories, by 2030 all 50 states could have rates above 44% and a quarter could have rates above 60%. With that, the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension and arthritis could increase 10-fold by 2020—and double again by 2030.
Like obesity, these are diseases that disproportionately affect African Americans and Hispanics.
“This study shows us two futures for America’s health,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs. Nothing less is acceptable.”
The analysis, which was commissioned by TFAH and RWJF and conducted by the National Heart Forum, is based on a peer-reviewed model published last year in The Lancet.
The Impact of Reducing Adult Obesity on Health Care Costs
The analysis looked at the consequences for states if their residents’ average BMI decreased 5% by 2030. A person who is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds, would be classified as obese (with a BMI of 30.1). A 5% reduction in his or her BMI would be the equivalent of losing roughly 10.5 pounds.
The subsequent cost savings for states through lower rates of obesity-related diseases would be substantial. The projections include:
- California – $81 billion
- New York – $40 billion
- Texas – $54 billion
- Illinois – $28 billion
- Florida – $34 billion
On the basis of the data collected and a comprehensive analysis, TFAH and RWJF recommend making investments in obesity prevention in a way that matches the severity of the health and financial toll the epidemic takes on the nation. The report provides a series of policy recommendations, including:
- Fully implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act through new school meal standards and updated nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages in schools;
- Increase investments in effective, evidence-based obesity-prevention programs;
- Protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund and fully implement the National Prevention Strategy and Action Plan;
- Make physical education and physical activity a priority in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;
- Finalize the guidelines of the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children;
- Fully support healthy nutrition in federal food programs; and
- Encourage full use of preventive health care services and provide support beyond the doctor’s office.
“We know a lot more about how to prevent obesity than we did 10 years ago,” said Dr. Jeff Levi, executive director of TFAH. “This report outlines how policies like increasing physical activity time in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier. Small changes can add up to a big difference. Policy changes can help make healthier choices easier for Americans in their daily lives.”