Hospitals Costs Associationed with Childhood Obesity Increased to $127M in 2001
Hospital costs connected to childhood obesity increased to $127 million in 2001 from $35 million in 1981, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, USA Today reports. CDC researchers examined cost data for children's hospital stays for obesity and three obesity-related diseases -- diabetes, gallbladder disease and sleep apnea -- for the years 1979-1981 and 1997-1999, using the National Hospital Discharge Survey, a federal database that adjusts hospital costs to 2001 dollar values. Researchers found that for children ages six to 17:
- Days spent in the hospital for obesity-related illness increased by more than 100%, from 152,000 between 1979-1981 to 310,000 between 1997-1999.
- The average hospital stay increased by roughly one-third to seven days, from 5.3 days.
Lead researcher William Dietz said that the increased length of hospital stays is notable given that hospital stays overall decreased during this time. He added that the findings are "by no means the total cost. It's a conservative estimate and a harbinger of things to come as these kids grow up" (Elias, USA Today, 5/1).
In a related article, the Wall Street Journal examines hospital efforts to serve a growing population of obese adult patients. About one in 80 men weighs more than 300 pounds, a 50% rise from 1996 to 2000, and one in 200 women weighs more than 300 pounds, a 67% increase, according to Roland Sturm, a Rand economist. Standard hospital equipment, such as wheelchairs, operating tables and imaging machines, is not designed for obese people, the Journal reports. As a result, hospitals are increasingly purchasing "bariatric" equipment, designed specifically for obese patients, such as "big sturdy beds" and ceiling-mounted lifts. Hospitals are also training staff in the proper ways to move obese patients to limit injuries. Obesity advocates, however, say that hospitals are making changes "too slowly." Walter Lindstrom, founder of the Obesity Law and Advocacy Center, said he hears from an "average of five to 10" obese patients a month who say they were denied treatment because a hospital "couldn't take care of them" (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 5/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.