Monday, July 18, 2011

Can Michigan win the battle against obesity?

Written by Louise Knott Ahern
The numbers are staggering.

They get quoted all the time, dire estimates about how much it costs Michigan to be the 10th fattest state in the nation.

They show up in expert testimony before the Legislature. They appear in press releases by advocacy groups trying to influence state law. Gov. Rick Snyder himself reportedly relied on one estimate — $9 billion — as the basis for listing obesity reduction as a priority in his administration.

But is it really $9 billion? Or is it more like $42 billion, as one study suggests? Or maybe only $52 million, cited by yet another?

The wide-ranging disparities raise more questions than they answer about what Michigan’s rising obesity epidemic means for the businesses, taxpayers and individuals of the Great Lakes state.

Where do the estimates come from? What do they include? And, most importantly, who ultimately pays the bill?

Chart: Healthcare costs and obesity
Data:Michigan county-by-county obesity rates
Tips: Do just one thing toward better health

“The costs of obesity are enormous,” said Dr. Lee Kaplan, chairman of the national Campaign to End Obesity, a consortium of roughly 50 businesses, nonprofits, government agencies and other groups. “You have medical costs, you have disease, you have death and quality of life, military preparedness, and of course, lastly, you have lost productivity in the economy. What part of modern society have we not touched on as being adversely affected by obesity? None. So who pays the bill? We all do.”

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