Michele Tedder and Sunil Daniel, Pennsylvania Legislative Briefing

Adding Up the Cost of Untreated Obesity in Pennsylvania

There is a hot debate playing out in medical journals and editorials all over the country. How can we pay for the advanced obesity medicines for which people are expressing such a great need? What often gets lost in this discussion is the fact that we are already paying. Yesterday, we had the good fortune to participate in a legislative briefing in the Pennsylvania capitol digging into the cost of obesity – both human and economic.

The human cost comes in poor health that limits a person’s capacity to live, work, love, and care for their families. OAC Board member Michele Tedder described her lifelong struggle to find adequate care for obesity:

“I had to kiss a lot of frogs to find a primary care provider who actually saw me as a whole person. It made all the difference.”

A $20 Billion Economic Toll in Pennsylvania

Economic Impact of Obesity in PennsylvaniaEconomist Tim Dall presented a detailed analysis of cost to the Pennsylvania economy from obesity, summarizing a new report he developed with colleagues at GlobalData, a data analytics company. It adds up to $19.9 billion in lost economic activity and 156,300 fewer adults in the workforce. He told legislators that effective treatment and prevention strategies have the potential for significant economic benefits:

“Supporting individuals to treat their obesity has the potential to generate substantial medical savings while also increasing labor force participation and productivity, thereby stimulating significant economic activity.”

Access to Care

The critical problem right now is access to care. Drug costs and supply shortages get in the way. The cost of skilled care and adequate numbers of trained providers present additional challenges. But in some respects, Dall noted that Pennsylvania is doing better than many other states:

“Pennsylvania is at the forefront of obesity care. Many others are lagging behind.”

In particular, the provision of access to obesity medicines for Pennsylvania Medicaid beneficiaries has made a tremendous difference for the patients that Sunil Daniel sees in his Pennsylvania medical practice. Daniel is an obesity medicine physician who serves as a director on the board of the Obesity Action Coalition. He explained that effects of obesity, when it is not treated, serve to undermine a person’s cardiometabolic health, physical functioning, and psychosocial health. In short, it can affect every aspect of a person’s life.

This is why care for obesity can be transformative – for a person and for a state’s economy.

Click here for Dall’s presentation and here for the full report.

Michele Tedder and Sunil Daniel, Pennsylvania Legislative Briefing, photograph by Ted Kyle / ConscienHealth

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


March 20, 2024