Managed Care Outlook

Half of Americans could be obese by 2030


Osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, respiratory conditions, hypertension, certain cancers, and heart, liver, and kidney diseases all have something in common: Obesity contributes significantly to their prevalence. “In the United States, more than two thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and obesity is a leading factor in preventable death, causing an estimated 200,000 deaths per year,” says the latest edition of America’s Health Rankings, an annual report by the United Health Foundation (www.americas healthrankings.org).

In 2008, nearly $150 billion was spent on obesity and obesity-related health issues, the study states. The foundation’s researchers note that the causes of obesity are complex and include genetic makeup and socioeconomic factors. But they also point out that since the 1980s, energy intake has climbed while energy expenditure has declined, leading to an energy imbalance that closely mirrors the rise in obesity rates.

Obesity rates in the United States, 1990–2014

Percentage of population estimated to be obese (BMI ≥30)

*Estimates after 2011 use refined Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System methodology

Source: America’s Health Rankings, United Health Foundation, December 2014

The proportion of American adults who are obese is a Healthy People 2020 leading health indicator. A Healthy People 2020 goal is to reduce the proportion of obese adults by 10%. The Healthy People program, launched by the Department of Health and Human Services in 1979, tracks 10-year objectives for improving health based on guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

It’s imperative that some strides be made, say the authors of an analysis by the National Heart Forum (tinyurl.com/cwg8v8c). Otherwise, they warn, there is a real possibility that half of Americans could be obese by 2030.

Projected obesity-related health care costs 2010–2030

$ (billions)

Source: National Heart Forum

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