Moultrie Observer

Opinion

March 29, 2012

After crunching numbers, obesity issue is clearer

MOULTRIE — Routinely we hear about the problems of obesity and how myriad efforts have been launched to address this dilemma. Right here in our community we have civic leaders who are targeting childhood obesity as well as organized efforts to get adults slimmed down.

Talking about obesity often tends to be one of those subjects that we give token attention to because the issue doesn’t routinely get broken down into cause and effect analyses.

So let’s drop a few numbers into this discussion.

The health care costs linked to excess weight in Georgia’s adults are currently estimated at around $2.5 billion per year, according to a 2009 report from United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention. But if current trends continue, the report projects these costs could reach $10.8 billion by 2018. Wow!

Think about what we could do with that money otherwise.

At the current rate, by 2018 as many as 41 percent of Georgia adults could be obese and spending over $1,000 each for obesity-related health care annually, according to the report.

Someone who is overweight or obese could be seeing several doctors -- one to manage diabetes, one to manage cardiovascular disease, one for joint issues -- and taking numerous prescription drugs at a time.

 Add in lost wages due to disability or illness, and a lower quality of life, and obesity becomes more than just the cost of changing a diet and buying a gym membership. According to a George Washington University study, obese women employed full-time earn six percent less than their healthier counterparts. With more treatment for obesity-related illness comes larger bills and higher insurance premiums and higher costs for publicly funded programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

And it’s not just individuals who pay: employees with additional pounds raise health care costs for everyone including the businesses covering them.  According to a 2010 Duke University study, obesity costs U.S. employers $73.1 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity.

Now we know it’s generally easier and more efficient to prevent something bad than to fix something bad. Changing cultures and inspiring healthier lifestyles is especially crucial in regard to the efforts targeting childhood obesity. Let’s take these numbers to heart.

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