Calculating the Financial Health Economic Impact of Weight Loss in Obese Populations

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DOI: 10.21522/TIJPH.2013.04.02.Art011

Authors : Ana Cristina Diniz Silva


Health promotion programs have been constantly developed by the Health Surveillance Agencies of many countries aiming at tackling obesity. U.S. data revealed impressive obesity-related costs of $117 billion in 2000 - $61 billion for direct medical costs and $56 billion for indirect costs, i.e., those related to the impact of the disease on the country’s economy. In the UK, economic projections revealed that indirect costs might have reached £27 billion by 2015. The majority of the educational and preventive actions target lifestyle changes, childhood obesity and diabetes. More than making the population aware of the benefits of healthier habits and their potential savings, stakeholders and funders are looking forward to better assessing the economic impact of health education programs, which can be quantified by different methods such as the time value of money analyses, shadow pricing, and the cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness indexes. In the specific case of obesity as a risk factor for cardio-metabolic diseases, estimates obtained from different analysis reveal that great amounts of money – as high as 11.2 billion dollars – can be saved by delaying type 2 diabetes onset in 6 years, in a hypothetical population of 2 million obese adults who have effectively lost weight. Furthermore, in agreement with the ancient philosopher Virgil, who quoted “the greatest wealth is health”, by living longer and healthier, people may produce more and improve individual and familiar financial lives, thus contributing economically to their communities and countries. The aim of this paper is to briefly report how to assess and calculate the financial impact of public health programs to tackle obesity.

Keywords: obesity, public health, weight loss, economy, cost-benefit, cost-effectiveness


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