A new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation forecasts that the number of obese adults—and corresponding related disease rates and healthcare costs—are on course to increase dramatically across the country between now and 2030. Among the implications:
• the number of new cases of Type 2 diabetes could increase ten times in the next ten years, then double again by 2030;
• obesity could contribute to more than five million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke and more than 400,000 cases of cancer in the same period;
• by 2030, the associated medical costs of dealing with these increases would rise by $48 billion to $66 billion a year;
• and the lost economic productivity that will result might reach as high as $580 billion annually.
The 2012 update of F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012, provides an extensive collection of facts, figures and demographic and regional trend analyses that will prove highly useful to any nutrition or foodservice director who needs to speak authoritatively about this issue.
Business dining and healthcare foodservice directors who help their organizations develop wellness policies and programs will be especially interested in the sections that address lost productivity and increasing healthcare costs. Child nutrition professionals will find the sections on school policy and legislation helpful, with information on obesity prevention interventions and other topics associated with social policy. And any foodservice professionals called upon to make presentations on this topic will find the data in this report lends immediate credibility to their discussions.
The report also explores a scenario in which some states successfully lower adult obesity rates. Those that would be able to lower the BMI index of residents by just five percent by 2030 would save billions of dollars, and between 6.5 and 7.9 percent of its annual health care costs.
A Bright Note
If the heavily documented, 111-page report has one major bright note, it is the finding that the very high obesity rates of children in several of America’s largest cities may be declining for the first time.
In New York City, for example, where the Department of Education has been measuring BMI indexes of K-12 students since 2005, obesity appears to have decreased among 5-14 year olds by 5.5 percent in the most recently measured period. (Even bigger declines were found among the youngest students.) Similar drops were found in cities like Philadelphia and Los Angeles, with sometimes-significant differences among demographic groups that will no doubt provide plenty of opportunity for future research and analysis.
Among other recommendations, the report promotes the full implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and its meal standards; increased efforts to expand physical education programs; and the full use of preventative health care services beyond the doctor’s office.