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Obesity Care Costs Twice Previous Estimates

According to a recent Washington Post report, Obesity Care Costs Twice Previous Estimates as nearly 17 percent of U.S. medical costs can be attributed to obesity, twice the impact on medical spending previously estimated. The report, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, details the findings of a new study that estimates that obesity costs the U.S. around $168 billion per year.

These new estimates far exceed existing estimates. According to an earlier study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity-related medical costs were $147 billion, or about 9% of total medical costs. Kenneth Thorpe, health policy expert at Emory University, points out that “past estimates likely low-balled the costs.”

The stark difference in the two studies is attributed to past studies’ allowing survey participants to self-report data, which tended to result in participants underestimating their weight. Also, researchers for the new study incorporated medical costs incurred by obese family members of the participant.

The authors of the recent study expressed hope that “new estimates highlight a need to invest more in obesity-fighting programs.” IHRSA has long pushed for greater emphasis on policy focusing on preventing obesity as a means to reducing U.S. health care costs.