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U.S. Underestimates Long-Term Costs of Obesity, Experts Say
Date:3/21/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- The costs of the obesity epidemic to the United States and the economic value of curbing it are not captured fully by current methods, according to a new report.

The problem is that estimates used by Congress when it looks at these issues project out only 10 years, while it may take much longer than that for complications of obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease, to manifest, the report authors say.

For example, "a person with diabetes is not going to go on dialysis right away. They're going to go on dialysis 10 to 12 years after their diagnosis," said Michael O'Grady, co-author of the report, released Wednesday by the Campaign to End Obesity.

A 25-year window for making policy decisions would be more appropriate when drafting policies aimed at curbing disease, he said at a Wednesday morning press conference.

By the same token, measures to prevent obesity can take 20 or more years, perhaps even generations, to show their promise, the report said. A wider time window would enable policy makers to assess the cost-effectiveness of preventive programs, the report noted.

"Interventions aimed at children will not have their full payoff until those children are adults," said Dr. James Marks, senior vice president and director of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the study.

Nor will the success of interventions aimed at pregnant women be seen for many years, noted the study's authors, speaking at the briefing.

O'Grady, citing current CDC figures, said more than one-third of U.S. adults are overweight, another one-third are obese and 6 percent are extremely obese.

"That's right around three-quarters of the population," said O'Grady, a senior fellow for health care research at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and a principal with O'Grady
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