Early Childhood Obesity Increases Health Care Costs

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Young children who are obese have higher health care costs.
Young children who are obese have higher health care costs.

(HealthDay News) — In addition to the health impacts of childhood obesity, there are major economic impacts, which may occur earlier than previously thought, according to research published in Obesity.

The new study looked at health care usage patterns among 350 children aged 2 to 5 years. This included visits to specialists; hospital admissions; visits to the emergency department; and the use of diagnostic services, medical testing, and prescription medications.

The researchers found that obese children were more likely to be admitted to a hospital for respiratory difficulties, as well as for diseases of the ear, nose, mouth, and/or throat. The team also found that health care costs of children with obesity were 1.62 times those of children with healthy weight after adjustment for significant maternal and sociodemographic characteristics.

"Childhood obesity is a serious public health issue and is becoming an increasing problem in children under 5 years old," study lead author Alison Hayes, PhD, of the University of Sydney, said in a statement. "Our results are important for health care funders and policy makers because preventing obesity in the early childhood years may be a cost-effective way to tackle the obesity crisis, improve the nation's health, and reduce the economic burden of obesity."

Reference

  1. Hayes A, Chevalier A, D'Souza M, Baur L, Wen LM, Simpson J. Early childhood obesity: Association with healthcare expenditure in Australia. Obesity. 2016. doi:10.1002/oby.21544.
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