Paper Money

Watching Costs Pile Up for Untreated Obesity

Total Costs Attributable to Obesity, 2014At a congressional briefing yesterday, the Milken Institute released a stark economic analysis of the costs piling up for untreated obesity. Obesity now costs the U.S. economy $1.4 trillion dollars. Those costs come almost entirely from the complications that result when obesity goes untreated and progresses to cause other diseases.

The money spent on evidence-based medical care to treat obesity itself is negligible by comparison. Most of the estimated $64 billion spent on weight management was direct consumer spending on diet and weight loss products that have little long-term effect on the progression of obesity.

For the most part, health plans resist paying for obesity care and then pay tremendous sums for costs of the complications of untreated obesity.

Harvard’s Fatima Cody Stanford commented on this new report, saying:

This report brilliantly illustrates the devastating impact — more than a trillion dollars — of untreated obesity on the U.S. economy. Doing more of the same, blaming and shaming people with obesity, will only compound the damage to our economy. We need to adopt evidence-based strategies to prevent the progression and complications of this chronic disease.

The Milken report offers some excellent economic analysis, authored by Hugh Waters of the UNC Gillings School of Public Health. The recommendations for addressing obesity are a little spottier. The report acknowledges the complexity of the problem. It recommends collaborative action by diverse stakeholders that is sorely needed. But it concludes with a call for “personal responsibility” from people with obesity.

Personal responsibility is a great. Most Americans strive to live up to it. Some do it better than others. But higher rates of obesity did not arise because Americans suddenly became irresponsible in the 1980s. 

They will not be reversed by telling people they are irresponsible.

Click here for the Milken Institute’s report.

Paper Money, photograph © Kevin Dooley/ flickr

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December 1, 2016

One Response to “Watching Costs Pile Up for Untreated Obesity”

  1. December 01, 2016 at 2:14 pm, Allen Browne said:

    Powerful data. Despite right and wrong and despite data and reason, the economics will make things change.