With the tobacco problem on the back burner, diet and obesity are coming into the cross hairs as a focus for public health. Controlling the rise in obesity, promoting quality of life, whilst saving on public healthcare costs is clearly an admirable goal. It is unfortunate that the body’s genetic makeup from our prehistoric existence urges it to store large amounts of fat, but the ramifications for health and subsequent health care costs are clear.

Research from Duke University, RTI International and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that an additional 32 million more obese people are likely to become a burden not only to themselves but to the heathcare system. The study is entitled Obesity and Severe Obesity Forecasts through 2030 and is available online at: www.ajpmonline.org

Lead author Eric Finkelstein, PhD, associate research professor in the Duke Global Health Institute, as well as deputy director in the Health Services Research Program at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore summarizes the study by stating that :

“Keeping obesity rates level could yield a savings of nearly $550 billion in medical expenditures over the next two decades.”

Even more shocking is the prediction that nearly half of the US population will be obese by 2030, with those severely obese making up over ten percent of the population. Perhaps the Wall-E cartoon from Pixar is not a work of science fiction after all.

Senior author Justin Trogdon, PhD, of RTI, points out that :

“Should these forecasts prove accurate, the adverse health and cost consequences of obesity are likely to continue to escalate without a significant intervention.”

The study which was released today, May 7th at CDC’s Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, D.C., provides a focus and urgency to the fight against obesity.

William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity says:

“We know more than ever about the most successful strategies that will help Americans live healthier, more active lives and reduce obesity rates and medical costs … People need to make healthy choices, but the healthy choices must first be available and accessible in order to make them.”

“In the coming days at our Weight of the Nation conference, CDC and its partners will emphasize the proven, effective strategies and solutions that must continue to be applied to help make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

On Tuesday 8th May the CDC will follow up the report with a set of proposals named: “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.”, as well as reviewing known obesity prevention methods, the report will give step by step strategies that ought to have the greatest impact in speeding up the rate of progress in combating obesity.

Obesity rates remain unchanged for the first time in thirty years – the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a report in August, 2013, showing that the prevalence of obesity in the USA has remained steady.

Written by Rupert Shepherd