Last week, the Campaign to End Obesity released The Long-Term Returns of Obesity Prevention Policies, a new report which identifies billions of dollars in potential savings that are attributable to a variety of obesity-prevention tactics.
The 10-year window used by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to estimate costs of proposed federal legislation is often too short for assessing the long-run financial impact of diseases such as obesity, according to economist Alex Brill, CEO of Matrix Global Advisors and former chief economist and policy director to the House Ways and Means Committee. Brill acted as the main writer of the report.
"The 10-year window effectively distorts policymakers' perspective on preventive health policies by focusing on the initial cost of the interventions and failing to capture the full scope of the policies' impact in the long term," he stated.
A 75-year budget window, however, would show a huge savings within Medicare and Medicaid as a result of avoiding obesity-related diseases that are common in an aging population, Brill noted in the analysis written for the nonprofit Campaign to End Obesity and published on its website.
Two-thirds of U.S. adults and nearly one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. The estimated total cost of providing healthcare due to obesity — including nonmedical costs — is $450 billion annually.
Obesity screening by physicians, which is recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and covered by Medicare and many private health insurers, could yield as much as $44 billion in long-term federal savings.
The S-CHIP childhood obesity demonstration project, which combines changes in preventive care at doctor visits with community and school efforts to prevent and reduce childhood obesity in low-income communities, could produce as much as $41 billion in long-term federal savings.
Long-term federal savings from bringing the community-based, Diabetes Prevention Program to scale may amount to as much as $18.4 billion. The program, which already has demonstrated effectiveness, helps participants set weight loss goals, increase physical activity and implement healthy eating habits.
Coverage of certain weight-loss drugs under Medicare Part D could yield long-term federal savings of as much as $11.4 billion.
Although not a part of the study, the most effective obesity prevention measure is getting children involved in sports and physical activity from an early age. Our award-winning program, GoGirlGo! identifies and weaves together quality resources within each community and provides comprehensive support to organizations through a hands-on curriculum, grant program and networking opportunities.