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Obese Children Cost $19,000 each Over one Lifetime

Update Date: Apr 07, 2014 10:04 AM EDT

Childhood obesity is a disease that can lead to severe health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension especially when no preventive measures are taken early on. In order to control these chronic conditions, obese children are often placed on diets and even medications. Since they require more medical care, costs for caring will inevitably spike. In a new study, researchers estimated just how much it costs parents and the healthcare system to care for an obese child. They found that one obese child costs around $19,000 over one lifetime.

For this study, researchers at the Duke Global Health Institute and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore analyzed all existing lifetime costs of childhood obesity. These costs mainly included healthcare expenses, such as doctor visits and medications. The team compared the costs of obese children to normal weight children all from the United States. They found that over a lifetime, obese children aged 10, cost $19,000 each. When the researchers examined how many obese 10-year-old children there were in the U.S., they calculated that the cost for this age group was around $14 billion.

"Reducing childhood obesity is a public health priority that has substantial health and economic benefits," said lead author Eric Andrew Finkelstein, Ph.D., M.H.A in the press release. "These estimates provide the financial consequences of inaction and the potential medical savings from obesity prevention efforts that successfully reduce or delay obesity onset."

In the study, the team also provided another estimate. They found that if normal weight children became obese in adulthood, they would reduce the costs over one lifetime for each obese child to around $12,900 each. These expenses can take a toll on families and the healthcare system, which is why maintaining a healthy weight from childhood and through to adulthood is vital.

"For the same reasons we don't let kids drink or smoke and force them to go to school, we should also do our best to keep them at a healthy weight," Finkelstein said. "While the cost estimates are significant, the motivation to prevent childhood obesity should be there regardless of the financial implications."

The study's co-author, Wan Chen Kang Graham added according to Healthday, "Helping children form lifelong habits of healthy eating and regular exercise from an early age is one of the best investments that parents can make in their children's future."

The study was published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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