Obesity rates on track to exceed 50% in 39 states by 2030

Trend would drive up health care costs

Topics: Screening and Prevention, Methodologies, Performance Improvement

September 19, 2012

Obesity rates could exceed 50% in 39 states by 2030, an epidemic that will drive obesity-related costs as high as $580 billion per year, according to a new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health.

For the study, researchers at the National Heart Forum in London used state-by-state obesity data from CDC to create a statistical model. The data was culled through phone interviews between 1999 and 2010 with individuals nationwide who self-reported their height and weight.

Obesity rates to soar over next two decades

The study found that if current trends continue, by 2030 all 50 states would have obesity rates above 44%. It also found that:

  • 13 states would have obesity rates over 60%, with Delaware, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee having the highest rates;  and
  • 39 states would have obesity rates above 50%.

The District of Columbia would have a 32.6% obesity rate, the lowest in the nation.

Trend's impact on health costs

The report projected that new cases of weight-related illness—such as stroke and arthritis—would see a 10-fold increase by 2020 and double again by 2030.

The national cost of such preventable weight-related illnesses is estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion annually over the next two decades, the report added. That would bring obesity-related costs somewhere between $390 billion and $580 billion by 2030. Currently, adult obesity costs between $147 billion and $210 billion a year.

The study also highlights the projected savings on health care costs for each state if individuals lost an average of 5% of their body weight before 2030. The savings would range from about $1 billion for Wyoming to as much as $81 billion for California.

Researchers: Findings indicate potential national crisis

The researchers said their findings signal a potential crisis that requires federal intervention, and that lawmakers should seek to implement new policies that focus on small changes to curb the rising obesity rates. Specifically, they recommend public investment in preventive health care, obesity prevention programs that encourage increased physical activity, and healthier food options in schools (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/18; Hellmich, USA Today, 9/18; Stobbe, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/18; Bardin, "Booster Shots," Los Angeles Times, 9/18; Barr, Modern Healthcare, 9/18 [subscription required]).

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