The Cost of Childhood Obesity

From the WebMD Archives

May 1, 2002 -- We've heard the alarming news: Our country is facing an obesity epidemic -- with more and more children becoming dangerously overweight. We're beginning to understand what it's doing to our kids' current and future health. But there are other, less obvious costs.

Guijing Wang, PhD, and colleagues at the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion examined the economic costs of our kids' widening waistlines. They looked at nationwide hospital records between 1979 and 1999 for obesity-related illness among children aged 6-17.

The researchers found a "dramatic" increase in the proportion of hospitalized kids who are discharged with a diagnosis of obesity-related illness over the past 20 years.

"The discharges of diabetes nearly doubled, obesity and gallbladder diseases tripled, and sleep apnea increased fivefold," they write. And this translates to an enormous, threefold increase in hospital costs that appear to be directly attributable to the national rise in obesity.

To fight this unhealthy and expensive trend, "Diet and physical activity interventions should be developed for weight loss and prevention of weight gain in youths," the researchers recommend.

Their full report appears in the May issue of Pediatrics.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD
© 2002 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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