Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Cost of Obesity

National Council on Strength & Fitness

Tens of millions of dollars are being spent on multiple awareness campaigns for the prevention of obesity and the promotion of physical activity. At this point the average American demonstrates knowledge of the problem, recognizes it as a financial burden to America, and supports the reduction of obesity in the country. Interestingly, in this report and other related documents Americans who are classified as overweight or obese by BMI still consider themselves in good health when surveyed.

In the Catalyst Healthcare Research study, 1,500 participants between the ages of 18-65 were surveyed for a collection of data including height, weight, health behaviors such as physical activity and exercise participation, as well as awareness of health related issues. Sixty percent of respondents suggested that obesity is the number one threat to public health with cancer being second. Although more than 60% of the subjects were categorized as overweight or obese by their BMI values (values considered at risk for serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses), 72% said they were in good health, with 11% suggesting their health was actually excellent. Nearly 30% of this same group acknowledged they had gained weight in the past year. According to researchers, awareness of the obesity epidemic does not equate to accurate personal evaluation and corresponding perception of personal health.
Of the subjects who suggested they were more fit than the year before only 10% suggested they weighed less and exercised more than the prior year. As possibly expected, the main excuse for not exercising is the perceived lack of available time. Researchers suggested that people tend to believe they are healthy regardless of the actual amount of physical activity they engage in on a daily basis.
According to the recent McKinley Quarterly report, the economic impact of obesity, including the $160 billion health care cost (much of which is related to obesity related issues), is $450 billion annually. Critics are increasing as more and more federal money is being put into awareness and short lived activity campaigns with little or no on-going support or quantifiable metrics. An increasing contingency suggests primary interventions such as tax deductions for measured activity participation and health insurance sponsored physical activity programs should replace the awareness campaigns, whereas others believe taxing the obese or creating more personal financial burden for their health care is the answer. Regardless of one’s opinion, obesity costs continue to be a significant national threat.

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