Letters to the Editor

High costs of obesity

As a result of the U.S. health care system’s advances over the past 100 years in addressing infectious diseases, Americans have enjoyed increasingly healthier and longer lives. We now face a different health threat: preventable, man-made disease that threatens our nation’s future and requires restructuring our health care system.

Obesity-related disease is an example. As a result of the increasing rates of obesity, life expectancy is expected to decline and the youth of today may on average live a shorter, less healthy life than their parents. It is projected that half of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030 and treating obesity-related disease in the United States could increase from $18 billion a year up to $66 billion and cost more than $500 billion a year in lost economic productivity.

We need to make pragmatic changes. For every dollar we spend on prevention, we see a five-to-one return on investment in just five years. We can’t fix our economy and health care system without investing in prevention and public health. The current budget cuts to help trim the deficit will reduce public health spending 16 percent from 2010. This decision will only end up costing our country in the future.