Study: How to save money while preventing childhood obesity

Taxes on sugary drinks and unhealthy food advertising to kids may save more than $30 in health care costs for every dollar spent to implement, suggests a new study published this month.

Childhood obesity rates are nudging upwards, which means more kids are at risk for obesity in adulthood. With this extra weight comes increased risk for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as the high costs of health care that come with these diseases.

The new study used previous research to analyze the cost effectiveness and impact on childhood obesity of 7 proposed interventions. Six of the interventions aimed to prevent weight gain in youth while one involved surgical treatment of obesity. With the help of policy makers and other experts, study authors estimated the the effect of each intervention among the US population over the 10 years spanning 2015 to 2025.

Overall, five strategies were found to decrease incidence of childhood obesity (see chart) with three saving more in healthcare costs than they cost to implement.

Obesity cost effectivenesssOne strategy was a tax on sugary beverages. The proposed tax, translating to 12 cents for a can of soda, would prevent an estimated 576,000 children from being obese and save $30 for every dollar it cost to enact.

Another effective strategy was to create nutrition standards for school snacks, fundraisers and other foods sold outside of school meals. This would prevent an estimated 345,00 cases of childhood obesity, saving about $4.50 for every dollar it costs.

Nutrition standards for school meals was found to prevent the most cases of childhood obesity — approximately 1.8 million cases — yet this strategy cost about 60 cents more to implement than it would save in healthcare costs.

These results demonstrate the importance and feasibility of prevention measures to reduce childhood obesity, note the authors. The sugar sweetened beverage tax and taxing advertising would also provide revenue that would offset the costs of other prevention efforts, such as nutrition standards for school meals. Future studies are needed to assess the cumulative impact and costs of these interventions.

This study was funded by The JPB Foundation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Donald and Sue Pritzker Nutrition and Fitness Initiative, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


AICR Award Highlights, New Research in Obesity and Cancer

How can bariatric surgery and a mom’s smartphone link to reduced cancer risk?

These studies were among the winners of the AICR research poster competition, announced yesterday at the annual Obesity Week conference. Obesity is associated with increased risk of a number of cancers, including ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal. The winners, awarded support by AICR, included three early investigators and two student prizes.

In no particular order, here are highlights of this year’s winners for outstanding posters. Congratulations to all. Note: these poster findings are not yet published and have not yet gone through the peer-reviewed process.

Ǻsa Anveden, MD PhD University of Gothenburg, Sweden

AvendenBariatric surgery is one obesity-treatment option and previous research suggests decreased risk of cancer following surgery. This surgery may reduce the risk of cancer in obese women, suggests the finding of this study.

Anveden and her team followed over 4,000 obese people (70% women) for up to 26 years to look for cancer incidence. About half the participants had undergone bariatric surgery, and they were matched to a group of obese controls who received usual care. Continue reading


Obesity Report: How Does Your State Rank?

Mississippi and West Virginia top the state rankings for adult obesity with Colorado again at the bottom, according to the new annual report on obesity that gives just a hint of positive news in another year of rising rates.

Click on image to see how your state ranks.

Click on image to see how your state ranks.

For cancer risk, the state of obesity is a major concern. Aside from not smoking, staying a healthy weight is the single biggest lifestyle factor related to cancer risk. AICR estimates that overweight and obesity increase risk of 8 cancer types.

The State of Obesity is the 11th annual report on obesity rates from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (The report was formerly called F as in Fat.) For each state, the report looks at obesity-related cancers as well as heart disease and other health disorders related to obesity. You can also see each state’s policies on issues related to obesity.

Overall, the news is not good: Every state in our country has over one in five people obese; in 43 states, the rates are one in four. Adult obesity rates increased in six states over the past year, and did not decrease in any. More than one in ten children become obese at ages 2 to 5. As of the last available data, 2011-2012, nearly one out of three children and teens are overweight or obese.

The report also found many disparities, with obesity rates highest in the South and among Blacks, Latinos and lower-income, less-educated Americans. A special report on disparities found that almost half of African Americans, 43 percent of Latinos, 33 percent of Whites and 11 percent of Asian Americans were obese.

Here’s the positive: After decades of rising obesity rates among adults, the rate of increase is beginning to slow, according to the report. And national childhood obesity rate has remained stable.

The report issues high-priority recommendations, such as focusing on healthy food financing and improving nutrition and activity in schools and child care settings.

You can see how your state ranks and its obesity-related policies on their interactive site.