Making the Economic Case for Addressing Obesity in the United States

A study to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of anti-obesity initiatives

    • December 3, 2012

Dates of Project: May 2011 to May 2012

Field of Work: Policy-making to reduce obesity and its economic cost

Problem Synopsis: The obesity epidemic constitutes a major economic as well as health burden in the United States, one that is expected to grow substantially in the coming decades. Given the current environment of fiscal conservatism, it is important to know if federally funded anti-obesity initiatives can effectively reduce the epidemic's impact over the long term.

Synopsis of the Work: Researchers examined peer-reviewed scientific literature to determine whether anti-obesity programs and methods can be economically as well as clinically successful. They also reviewed procedures used by the Congressional Budget Office to project the likely effectiveness of anti-obesity initiatives.

Key Findings:

  • The budget "window" of 10 years used by the Congressional Budget Office to assess the likely costs and benefits of health care initiatives is too short to provide reliable projections for diseases such as obesity.
  • The projected increases in obesity-related health-care costs are large enough to make the difference between all American health care programs being financially viable or financially vulnerable in the long term.
  • A number of anti-obesity programs and methods were found to be both clinically successful and cost-effective.

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Can take decades to realize full impact of obesity on health & see full effect of obesity treatment efforts

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