Cost estimates for legislative proposals to address obesity use a time period that is too short to capture the potential economic value of preventing related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, concludes a study released Wednesday by the Campaign to End Obesity. This failure limits policymakers' ability to consider effective policies to address these costly conditions.
The study, Assessing the Economics of Obesity and Obesity Interventions, addresses how policymakers measure the benefits of policies to address chronic diseases. The authors describe how Congressional Budget Office cost estimates, which generally cover a 10-year period, do not capture the costly complications of chronic diseases, including those associated with obesity. Because those complications often take more than 10 years to manifest themselves, the authors suggest that a 25-year budget window would be more appropriate and effective when there is strong and reliable disease modeling to inform longer-term estimates. In assessing how cost estimates are conducted, the study also examines the large and still-growing health care costs associated with obesity and catalogues an array of programs to prevent and treat it.
Data included in the study indicate that past increases in obesity rates are responsible for $34.3 billion and $27.6 billion in additional spending in Medicare and Medicaid, respectively. Obesity also contributes to $74.6 billion in higher spending by private health insurers.
The authors also conducted an extensive examination of peer-reviewed programs aimed at addressing or preventing obesity, including government, community, and workplace wellness programs. They found that certain interventions can be both clinically successful and cost effective. The authors say it is extremely important to use both clinical and cost-effectiveness data to inform future policy action.
PT 2012, APTA's Annual Conference & Exposition, offers a variety of courses on wellness, including sessions on the PT's role in physical activity and fitness promotion; promoting positive behavioral change in patients and clients; and managing health, wellness, and disease reduction across a young adult to senior lifespan of their patients.