Now Obesity Has A Price Tag

It’s become one of the frequently-quoted axioms of American healthcare that 75 cents of every healthcare dollar we spend in this country is for treatment of chronic disease.

But now, thanks to a new study released yesterday, we know how much one of the leading causes of chronic disease, obesity, is costing individuals.

The study, conducted by a number of academic researchers, found that obesity is costing women who have the condition an average $4879 annually and men $2646.  These are costs resulting from disability, absenteeism and lost wages.  This study documents that obesity is not only causing chronic disease in millions of people, but also economic hardship for many.

One of the study’s authors, Christine Ferguson, said, “Being able to quantify the individual’s economic burden of excess weight may give new urgency to public policy discussions regarding solutions to the obesity epidemic.”

Dr. Ferguson is right.  No matter how success the new health reform law is in getting Americans off the uninsured rolls, creating a sustainable healthcare system and a healthier populace must include a successful attack on chronic disease.  Both the private and public sectors have an imperative need to engage in outreach to the public to emphasize healthier lifestyles and preventive care.  If we don’t take on this challenge, too many people are going to be suffering, as we can now quantify, both economic pain and shorter lifespans.