Public Health Interventions for Addressing Childhood Overweight: Analysis of the Business Case

This business case reviews childhood overweight interventions and the appropriateness of using expectation of return on investment to create interventions targeted at children.

What researchers found: Excess weight is associated with greater medical expenditures among children and adolescents. Under current practices, however, interventions are unlikely to meet the level of efficacy required to demonstrate a positive return on investment (ROI) in the short run. Instead of potential short-term financial savings, the value of childhood obesity interventions ought to be based on their ability to control weight effectively and improve health. 

Why we chose this publication: While short-term childhood obesity interventions may not produce a significant ROI over five years, there may be significant cost savings in the long-term by implementing interventions among overweight children who are more likely to become obese adults. Future studies on the costs of childhood overweight also should consider nonmedical expenses resulting from school absences and subsequent parental work absenteeism, as well as reduced quality of life.

What researchers studied: In quantifying the economic consequences of childhood overweight, the authors considered two measures. The first measure, return on investment, compares the medical and other costs saved by the intervention with the cost of implementation. The second measure is cost-effectiveness, which calculates change in costs associated with intervention relative to health benefits gained. Data from the 2001 through 2003 Medial Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) was used, with a focus on children and adolescents aged 8 through 19 years.