March 30, 2007

Everything is bigger in Texas including the bill for obesity

The phrase, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” rings true when we consider the current state of Texans’ health. Nearly two-thirds (64.1 percent) of the state’s population is overweight or obese.

And it's costing billions.

In 2005, there were nearly 3 million more obese adults in Texas than in 1990. Only 12.3 percent of Texas adults were obese in 1990; by 2005, that share had more than doubled, to 27.0 percent, well above the national average of 24.4 percent.

But who cares if Texans get fat. Doesn't Wall Street want all those Americans spending big chunks of money at fast food restaurants? However, Texas business may be thinking twice.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs reports obesity cost Texas businesses an estimated $3.3 billion in 2005. This figure includes the cost of health care, absenteeism, decreased productivity and disability.

Most of the cost of private health insurance is borne by America’s employers. Since 2001, their health insurance premiums have risen by an average of 68.2 percent. The national epidemic of obesity is a major factor in rising health care costs and skyrocketing health insurance premiums.

Sadly, the epidemic begins at an early age. In a Texas-specific study conducted from 2004 to 2005, researchers found that 42 percent of fourth graders were overweight or at-risk of overweight, as were 39 percent of eighth graders and 36 percent of eleventh graders.

By 2025, many of these overweight children will be entering the work force as overweight or obese adults, at a considerable cost to their employers. If the prevalence of obesity continues rising at the current pace, obesity could cost Texas businesses $15.8 billion annually by 2025.

“Obesity has roughly the same association with chronic health conditions as does twenty years’ aging; this greatly exceeds the associations of smoking or problem drinking,” stated Roland Sturm of the RAND Corporation in 2002.

It's worse than smoking and drinking and it's going to cost Americans billions. When will Americans realize this is a national crisis, not a personal image issue.

No comments: