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More Can Be Done to Slow Obesity's Toll on Health: Experts
Date:7/28/2009

esity, CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during a press conference held Monday.

"Obesity, and with it diabetes, are the only major health problems that are getting worse in this country, and they are getting worse rapidly," Frieden said. "The average American is now 23 pounds overweight."

Between 1998 and and 2006, obesity rates in the United States increased 37 percent and now one in three adults in the country are obese. Experts have long known the toll overweight takes on health, but the new report, published in the July 27 online edition of Health Affairs, outlines the financial cost of obesity.

"A normal-weight individual will spend about $3,400 per year in medical expenditures and that number rises to about $4,870 if that individual is obese," study author Eric Finkelstein, director, RTI Public Health Economics Program in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said during the Monday press conference.

For people on Medicare, expenses for a normal-weight person average about $4,700 a year, while costs for an obese person range about $6,400 annually, Finkelstein said.

The biggest driver of these excess costs are prescription drugs, Finkelstein said. Among the normal-weight population, prescription drug costs average about $700 a year, but among those who are obese the cost rises to about $1,300 a year, he said.

"For Medicare, the costs of obesity are about 72 percent greater just for prescription drugs," Finkelstein said. An obese person on Medicare is going to pay $1,400 in drug costs more a year than a normal-weight person, he said.

"Today's report demonstrating the clear link between rising rates of obesity and increasing medical costs is alarming, but not unexpected," Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said in a statement. "Obesity is the driver of so many chronic conditions -- heart disease, diabetes, cancer -- that generate the exorbitant cost
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