KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Study Says 43 Percent Of Americans Could Be Obese By 2018 – Costing $344 Billion Annually

A study has found that, if left unchecked, 43 percent of Americans will be obese by 2018, costing the health care system $344 billion annually.

CBS News reports: "The study, sponsored by the United Health Foundation, Partnership for Prevention, and American Public Health Association in conjunction with their annual America's Health Rankings, notes that the states most in danger of a ballooning obesity epidemic are: Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Only one state - Colorado - will have an obesity rate under 30 percent, according to the projections" (Glor, 11/17).

State news outlets covered the 20th annual health rankings. Michigan ranks 30th in the rankings for overall health, Crain's Detroit Business reports, up one spot from 2008. "Michigan has had a 109 percent increase in obesity from 14.1 percent in 1990 to 29.5 percent in 2009. In addition, the percentage of children in poverty in Michigan has increased by 21 percent" (Greene, 11/17).

Arkansas ranks 41st in obesity and 40th overall, the Arkansas News Bureau reports. "Last year Arkansas was 44th in the America's Health Rankings and in 1998 the state was ranked 50th. 'This is a striking improvement and is principally the result of attention being paid to the promotion of health behaviors,' said state Health Officer Paul Halverson" (Moritz, 11/17).

The Houston Chronicle reports that Reed Tuckson, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs at UnitedHealth Group, said at a press briefing that health statistics in Texas - where nearly 29 percent of the population is obese - will eventually catch up with the residents there. "'These are concerning trends. … We fully expect that these health determinants will manifest themselves down the road,' Tuckson said. 'Texas has to be really concerned'" (Burton, 11/17).

Finally, in Washington state, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that if obesity rates remain steady instead of going up, that state could save $768 per person in costs over the next 10 years. "Obesity accounts for nearly 10 percent of U.S. annual spending on health care. By 2018, obesity associated spending could jump to 21 percent, the study warns" (Guzman, 11/17).

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