Obesity Projections for 2030 Demand Solutions to Control Chronic Diseases and Health Care Spending

May 10, 2012

A new study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine presented at the CDC’s Weight of the Nation conference projects that 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030.  According to the USA Today coverage on the study, this is a significant increase from 2010 when 36 percent of the country was obese. What’s more is that with a rise in obesity, we should expect to see increased health care spending. If obesity rates climb to the level predicted, it will result in an increase of nearly $550 billion just in weight-related medical costs. This projection is in line with the findings of my 2009 study that showed that a large portion of the increase in health care spending is attributable to obesity.

A health economist at Duke University Global Health Institute and lead researcher of the study, Eric Finkelstein, predicts, “The obesity problem is likely to get much worse without a major public health intervention.’”  Higher obesity rates will not only affect individuals, but add significantly to our already unsustainable level of health care spending.

If four out of ten people are obese, we expect to see much higher rates of serious chronic diseases related to obesity, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Obesity-related diseases and conditions are entirely preventable.  Addressing the obesity epidemic requires a national commitment – engaging government, private organizations, and individuals – to understand what is driving the epidemic and working collaboratively to reduce obesity rates significantly.   A fundamental first step would be to preserve the Prevention Fund and use resources to support evidence-based programs that work to reduce obesity rates and related conditions.