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F as in Fat: Adult Obesity in Missouri Could Reach 61.9% by 2030, Predicts New Study

Plus, related health care costs could climb by 13.9 percent. What recommendations are contained in this new analysis conducted by the National Heart Forum for two national, health-related organizations?

Missouri soon will make a top 10 list that's a health-related ticking time bomb, if current patterns in obesity in the state continue.

Missouri's total of obese adults—along with related disease rates and health care costs—is on track to increase dramatically over the next 20 years, according to F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012, a new report released Tuesday by Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)

For the first time, the annual report includes an analysis that forecasts 2030 adult obesity rates in each state, and the likely resulting rise in obesity-related disease rates and health care costs. By contrast, the analysis also shows that states could prevent obesity-related diseases and dramatically reduce health care costs if they reduced the average body mass index (BMI) of their residents by just 5 percent by 2030. (For a six-feet-tall person weighing 200 pounds, a 5 percent reduction in BMI would be the equivalent of losing roughly 10 pounds.)

“This study shows us two futures for America’s health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO in a news release about the report. “At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs. Nothing less is acceptable.”

The analysis, which was commissioned by TFAH and RWJF leaders, and conducted by the National Heart Forum, is based on a peer-reviewed model published last year in The Lancet. It is the ninth annual report. New findings include:

Projected Increases in Obesity Rates

If obesity rates continue on their current trajectories, by 2030, the obesity rate in Missouri could reach 61.9 percent. According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011, 30.3 percent of adults in the state were obese.

Nationally, by 2030:

  • 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 percent
  • 39 states could have rates above 50 percent
  • all 50 states could have rates above 44 percent.

Mississippi could have the highest obesity rate at 66.7 percent, and Colorado could have the lowest obesity rate for any state at 44.8 percent.

Projected Increases in Disease Rates          

Over the next 20 years, obesity could contribute to 843,420 new cases of type 2 diabetes, 1,760,591 new cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, 1,585,199 new cases of hypertension, 1,016,888 new cases of arthritis, and 241,389 new cases of obesity-related cancer in Missouri.  

Currently, more than 25 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, 27 million have chronic heart disease, 68 million have hypertension and 50 million have arthritis, according to medical authorities.  In addition, 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, and approximately one in three deaths from cancer per year (approximately 190,650) are related to obesity, poor nutrition or physical inactivity.

Projected Increase in Health Care Costs

By 2030, obesity-related health care costs in Missouri could increase by more than 13.9 percent, which could be the 31st highest increase in the country, according to the new report.

Nationally, nine states could see increases of more than 20 percent, with New Jersey on course to see the biggest increase at 34.5 percent. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., could see increases between 15 percent and 20 percent.

In the United States, medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion per year by 2030, and the loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580 billion annually by 2030. Although the medical cost of adult obesity in the United States is difficult to calculate, current estimates range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year.

How Reducing Obesity Could Lower Disease Rates and Health Care Costs

If BMIs were lowered by 5 percent, Missouri could save 7.9 percent in health care costs, which would equate to savings of $13,368,000,000 by 2030. 

The number of Missouri residents who could be spared from developing new cases of major obesity-related diseases includes:

  • 179,659 people could be spared from type 2 diabetes,
  • 152,070 from coronary heart disease and stroke,
  • 133,798 from hypertension,
  • 75,434 from arthritis, and
  • 13,704 from obesity-related cancer. 

“We know a lot more about how to prevent obesity than we did 10 years ago,” said Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH in a news release. “This report also outlines how policies like increasing physical activity time in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier. Small changes can add up to a big difference. Policy changes can help make healthier choices easier for Americans in their daily lives.”

Report Recommendations

On the basis of the data collected and a comprehensive analysis, TFAH and RWJF representatives recommend making investments in obesity prevention in a way that matches the severity of the health and financial toll the epidemic takes on the nation. The report includes a series of policy recommendations, including:

  • Execute the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, by implementing the school meal standards and updating nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages in schools;
  • Protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund;
  • Increase investments in effective, evidence-based obesity-prevention programs;
  • Fully implement the National Prevention Strategy and Action Plan;
  • Make physical education and physical activity a priority in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;
  • Finalize the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children Guidelines;
  • Support healthy nutrition in federal food programs; and
  • Encourage full use of preventive health care services and provide support beyond the doctor’s office. 

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