Two Costs of Complacency in Childhood Obesity

Complacency in childhood obesity is costly. It’s increasingly clear that relying exclusively on a let’s-get-those-kids-movin’ strategy won’t be enough to reverse entrenched levels of childhood obesity. Two new studies this week have made it clear that such complacency has two distinct costs.

Growth in Childhood Obesity Rates

  1. Direct Medical Costs. In Pediatrics yesterday, Eric Finkelstein and colleagues published and analysis of the direct lifetime medical costs of childhood obesity. They found that direct medical costs alone are $19,000 per child — and that does not account for non-medical costs such as productivity impacts and health-related quality of life. Just considering today’s 10-year-old children with obesity, direct medical costs alone will be $19 billion.
  2. Unabated Growth in Severe Obesity. Today in JAMA Pediatrics, Asheley Skinner and Joseph Skelton published an analysis of the latest data available from NHANES for the obesity rates in children. While the overall growth in obesity rates may have slowed, severe obesity rates are continuing to grow. The authors conclude that “the high prevalence and upward trend of more severe forms of obesity will likely require more intensive interventions than can be done through widespread public health efforts.”

Recent declarations of progress were clearly wishful thinking. Current policies are a good start, but more research and medical care for the children already affected will be necessary to turn the tide against childhood obesity.

Click here and here to read more about these two studies. Click here to read the Finkelstein study and here to read the Skinner study.

1970s K-Mart Price Tag, photograph © Roadsidepictures / flickr

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