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Obesity Driving Rising U.S. Health Costs
Date:10/2/2007

Americans outspend Europeans when it comes to chronic disease care, study finds

TUESDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity is a big factor driving soaring rates of chronic disease in the United States, with many more Americans chronically ill than their European counterparts, a new study finds.

It's an expensive problem, too: According to researchers, chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease account for some $100 to $150 billion in health-care spending in the United States each year.

"The United States spends twice as much as European countries on health care," noted lead researcher Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of the department of health policy and management at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta. "Seventy-five percent of what we spend in this country is associated with patients that have one or more chronic conditions and most of the growth is due to obesity."

"We have got to find more effective means to reduce, and at the worst, stabilize this persistent rise in obesity among adults and kids in this country," he said.

In addition, experts must find better and less expensive ways of managing chronic health-care problems, Thorpe said.

"That's where all the money is being spent," he said. "We are not going to control costs until we get the level and growth in chronic disease prevalence down."

The report appears in the Oct. 2 online edition of Health Affairs.

In the study, Thorpe's team compared 2004 data on the prevalence and treatment of diseases among adults aged 50 and older in the United States and Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

They report that about 17 percent of European adults are obese, compared with around a third of American adults. In addition, 53 percent of adult Americans are either former or current smokers, compared with 43 percent of those in
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