Obesity costs our kids by putting them at risk for childhood diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other chronic conditions, as well as putting stress on their joints, bones and organs.
Now translate that into dollars and cents. The medical cost of childhood obesity will top $625 million dollars over the next 20 years when considering just the current group of children and adolescents in Alaska, according to a new study by the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.
This number doesn’t include indirect costs of obesity, such as lower productivity, missed time from work or limited education, said the study’s author, Mouhcine Guettabi, an assistant economics professor at UAA. Guettabi said the number “can be used as the absolute lower boundary of medical cost estimates.”
The study used a 2012 cohort of children from 2 to 19 years old to estimate obesity-related medical costs over 20 years for that group only. The pattern will continue in Alaska as more children are born, grow up, and become obese.
“This picture will repeat itself over and over and over,” Guettabi said.
The study bases its numbers on current patterns of obesity that show 15.2 percent of Alaska’s children classified as obese and 20 percent of non-obese Alaska children become obese adults.
The study concludes that reducing obesity rates in children between 2 and 19 years by 1 percent would save nearly $17 million over 20 years. Decreasing the percentage of non-obese kids who become obese adults by 1 percent would save over $14.3 million over 20 years. Dropping the percentage of obese adolescents who become obese adults would save another $2.9 million.