chapter  8
Economic Costs of Obesity
Pages 8

Everyone working in the obesity area wants to know the cost of obesity. They want a magic number, and feel it must be a high dollar cost, which can be used in advocacy with governments and health authorities. The reason for this need is to ‘‘raise the profile’’ of obesity on the health agenda. This, it is hoped, will enable obesity to be treated more appropriately (in proportion to the true public health impact), and for increased resource allocation to obesity prevention. The expected outcome of these invigorated treatment and prevention approaches will reduce future health expenditures on obesity and its related diseases. However, in most countries or health areas, the amount of money available for health care is finite and limited. Given constraints of health care funding, allocation of additional resources to obesity prevention and treatment requires that effective programs must be available. A trade-off therefore exists between prevention of weight gain and obesity and the future health consequences of weight gain. We emphasize both the use and the limitations of calculating or knowing the costs of obesity. While a

costing can be used for advocacy, a change in the costs of obesity may not be the most appropriate or desirable end point of such advocacy. Rather it may be better to aim for changes in such things as disabilityadjusted life years (DALYs), quality-of-life measures, or changes in incidence or prevalence of obesityassociated diseases.