Here’s another great reason to stand out from the crowd: Health researchers have conservatively projected that 42 percent of American’s will be obese by 2030. If that trend could somehow be reversed, the U.S. could save hundreds of billions in health care costs over the next decade.
From bad to worse
From 1960 to 1980 the amount of adults in the U.S. categorized as obese—about 30 pounds overweight—remained stable at about 15 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the next 20 years the obesity rate began to skyrocket and by 2000, 32 percent of adult Americans had crossed the obesity threshold.
By 2010, 36 percent of adults in the U.S. were obese and 6 percent were severely obese—about 100 pounds overweight. Researchers from the Duke University Global Health Institute presenting an obesity report at the CDC “Weight of the Nation” conference said the environment that promotes obesity in the U.S. couldn’t get much worse.
When lead researcher Eric Finkelstein presented his analysis, he said the country is already saturated with fast-food restaurants, cheap junk food and technology that have rendered people sedentary at home and on the job. Because conditions are as bad as they can get, growth in the U.S. obesity rate is slowing down somewhat. But the rate is still expected to increase another 12 percent in the next 20 years. That translates to 32 million more cases.
To predict future obesity rates, Finkelstein and his team analyzed CDC data about body mass index, a score based on height and weight, reported by several hundred thousand people. The disconcerting numbers they came up with have to be considered conservative, given that most people fudge about their height and weight.
Obesity and health care costs
According to CDC data, 78 million adults and 12.5 million children and adolescents are already obese. Complications associated with obesity include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many cancers, sleep apnea and other crippling, chronic illnesses. It’s a public health problem that costs $190.2 billion a year, or one in every five dollars spent on health care.
An earlier study by Finkelstein’s team found that if the obesity rate were contained at 2010 levels, the U.S. could save nearly $550 billion in health care costs by 2030. A more realistic goal of cutting the growth rate of obesity by just one percent would save $85 billion in the next 20 years.
A fat future
The nation faces a daunting challenge, given that the childhood obesity epidemic is expected to cause a surge in future adult obesity rates. A third of U.S. children today are overweight or obese. Chances are all those fat kids will become fat adults.
Finkelstein and his team suggest that only a” major public health intervention,” is likely to make a difference. In the current political climate, that could be wishful thinking. Personal responsibility is the only solution.
Refuse to become a statistic.