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Rate of Obesity Rising Rapidly, To Hit 43% by 2018


Unless the runaway train of obesity is checked, it is estimated that 43 percent of Americans, or 103 million people, will be obese by 2018. The cost of this epidemic is extremely high in terms of quality of life and economics, to the tune of $344 billion per year.

That’s the conclusion of a recent study, which was sponsored by the United Health Foundation, Partnership for Prevention, and American Public Health Association (APHA) along with their yearly America’s Health Rankings. The report also highlights which states have the most rapidly rising rates of obesity, which include Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. According to this year’s report, the APHA’s 20th annual health rankings, Oklahoma is projected to have the highest obesity rate by 2018, facing $3.2 billion in health care costs related to obesity. Colorado is projected to have the lowest rate in the nation, with $1.8 billion of state funds going toward obesity-related health care costs.

The report also noted that while obesity currently accounts for almost 10 percent of the yearly US health care costs, that rate will rise to 21 percent by 2018 if the obesity epidemic remains on its present course. One state that is demonstrating that course is Michigan. According to Crain’s Detroit Business, that state has experienced a 109 percent increase in obesity since 1990, rising from 14.1 percent to 29.5 percent in 2009.

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According to Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the APHA, “health reform should include a strong focus on prevention. Behaviors, such as smoking and obesity, are limiting our nation’s ability to make progress and costing billions in unnecessary, preventable health care costs.”

Failure to stem the epidemic of obesity is hindering attempts to correct a wide range of other related health issues. Just one example is the dramatic impact of obesity on heart disease. According to a research study presented this week at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2009, the rise in overweight and obesity among American adults has undermined public health success at lowering the risk of heart disease.

The key, according to Kami Banks, MD, MPH, who was the lead investigator of the heart disease study and who is a cardiology research fellow in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, is that the medical community must make efforts to reverse the obesity trend. She noted that more emphasis must be placed on lifestyle and dietary changes, as well as physical activity, which should be treated as prescriptions. Without such a concerted effort, the obesity epidemic will likely continue.

American Heart Association
American Public Health Association
Crain’s Detroit Business