Projected Future Costs of Obesity to "Crush" U.S. and U.K. Healthcare Systems
Posted Aug 31 2011 12:00am
A recent article in Lancet discussed how the global obesity epidemic would "crush" the U.S. and U.K. health systems with its associated increased long-term, disease-associated costs (see: Obesity to crush health care systems globally: study ). Although the use of the word "crush" may seem overly dramatic, I think that it's appropriate in this context. Below is a brief summary of the article:
Rising prevalence of obesity is a worldwide health concern because excess weight gain within populations forecasts an increased burden from several diseases, most notably cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancers....These trends project 65 million more obese adults in the USA and 11 million more obese adults in the UK by 2030, consequently accruing an additional 6—8·5 million cases of diabetes, 5·7—7·3 million cases of heart disease and stroke, 492,000—669,000 additional cases of cancer, and 26—55 million quality-adjusted life years forgone for USA and UK combined.The combined medical costs associated with treatment of these preventable diseases are estimated to increase by $48—66 billion/year in the USA and by £1·9—2 billion/year in the UK by 2030. Hence, effective policies to promote healthier weight also have economic benefits.
I see only one solution to this problem on the horizon. We need to rigidly mandate some fixed percentage of our healthcare expenditures toward the prevention and treatment of obesity in addition to treating its related diseases. We also need to convince ourselves that this is not simply a consequence of bad dietary choices and lack of exercise. Rather, it's a critical challenge in society that needs to be treated and prevented now before the future costs overwhelm our entire healthcare system.