Some Researchers Voice Concern About Economic Effects of Childhood Obesity in California
More than 25% of California students are overweight, and some health researchers are concerned that this population as adults "will spend more time in the hospital and less at work" than previous generations, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
According to a report released last month by the Department of Health Services, the state's overweight and obese adults -- who account for more than half of the adult population -- cost the state economy $21.7 billion in 2000. Those costs included $11.2 billion in lost productivity, $10.2 billion in direct and indirect medical costs and $338 million in workers' compensation, according to the report.
Susan Foerster, chief of DHS' cancer prevention and nutrition section, said economic costs for overweight and obese children will increase as the population ages, particularly from those who develop diabetes.
Naomi Neufeld -- a clinical professor at the University of California-Los Angeles and founder and executive director of a weight-management program for children in Los Angeles -- said, "California's going to fall apart." Neufeld added, "The people who should be working in the work force are going to be sitting in the hospital with their heart attacks, their strokes and their diabetes."
Eric Finkelstein, co-author of a 2004 report on the medical costs of obesity, said, "The truth is, the cost of obesity in kids is really small, but only if you're looking at annual costs. If you're looking at a lifetime, then that's where the numbers are off the charts."
Public health officials say that improving access to affordable nutritious food, nutrition education in schools and physical activity could help address childhood obesity and related costs (Mascaro/Wells, Los Angeles Daily News, 5/1).