Making the Economic Case for Addressing Obesity in the United States

What can the federal government do to address obesity while reducing taxpayer cost?

    • April 6, 2015

Dates of Project: May 2011 to December 2013

Description: Three studies by the Campaign to End Obesity examined how the federal government can more effectively address the national obesity epidemic, and at the same time substantially reduce its costs to American taxpayers, by addressing its causes and effects over the long term.

Key Findings

  • Investing in long-term obesity prevention programs could reduce the costs of American health care by billions of dollars.

  • The currently 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.

  • The budget “window” of 10 years used by the Congressional Budget Office to assess the likely costs and benefits of health care initiatives, although appropriate for many federal programs, is too short to provide reliable projections for health-related situations in which disease trajectories evolve over many years.

  • The Congressional Budget Office could substantially improve the ability of Congress to assess the effectiveness of obesity prevention policies if it estimated the cost of those policies over a 75-year time span, rather than over the 10-year time span it typically uses.

  • Significant obstacles prevent a current federal tax policy, the New Market Tax Credit, from substantially increasing the availability of healthy foods and opportunities for exercise in low-income neighborhoods. These obstacles weaken the effectiveness of a mechanism that could help counter two significant contributors to obesity in those neighborhoods.

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Studies by Bush admin veterans examine how federal government could support obesity prevention & treatment