Calif. could save trillions if it cuts average BMI by 5 percent by 2030

Sept. 18, 2012, 1:46 p.m.

If California doesn't make an effort to reduce the average weight of its residents, its obesity rate could rise to nearly 47 percent by 2030 – up from 24 percent in 2011. (Toby Alter/Flickr Creative Commons)

Just think: By 2030, obesity rates for every single state of the union could exceed 44 percent.

In 13 of those states, more than 60 percent of folks would be obese.

That's if we continue on our current trajectory. Also: By 2020, the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and arthritis will have increased tenfold.

By 2030, those cases will have doubled again.

All that comes from a new 124-page report released Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which aimed to forecast where obesity rates would be by 2030 and how that would affect obesity-related disease rates.

The prognosis: Without some major changes, America's not looking too healthy.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, the president and CEO of the RWJF, said in a statement that the report shows "two futures for America's health": one in which rates continue on their current path and one in which states reduce the average body mass index (BMI) of their residents by 5 percent by the year 2030.

The reasons to do that are both health-related and financial. Over the next two decades, obesity could play a role in:

– 6 million cases of type 2 diabetes
– 5 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke
– More than 400,000 cases of cancer

That's the last thing the U.S. needs, considering that:

– 25 million Americans already have type 2 diabetes
– 27 million have chronic heart disease
– 68 million have high blood pressure
– 50 million have arthritis

Add that to 795,000 Americans who suffer from strokes every year, as well as the 190,000-plus deaths from obesity-related cancers, and you've got an epidemic.

Then there's the money: By 2030, the medical cost of treating obesity-related diseases will rise by up to $66 billion. (The current annual cost of treating obesity falls somewhere between $147 billion and $210 billion.)

The U.S. is also expected to lose between $390 billion and $580 billion in productivity every year through things like sick days and fatigue.

But things will look considerably different if each state reduces its average BMI by 5 percent.

If that were to happen, says the report, more than 796,000 Californians could be spared developing type 2 diabetes. Same goes for nearly 657,000 Golden State residents when it comes to heart disease, and more than 698,000 folks when it comes to high blood pressure.

In 2011, nearly 24 percent of Californians were obese. As it stands, that rate will hit almost 47 percent by 2030. If California can get its BMI down, though, the 2030 rate should hover right around 41 percent.

Oh, and the state will save more than $81.7 trillion. (That's with a "t.")

Whether or not California can get its BMI down doesn't change the fact that it ranks among the least obese states in the country. The dubious distinction of "most obese" goes to Mississippi, which is on track to have an astounding obesity rate of nearly 67 percent by 2030.

The most recent county data shows that South L.A.'s adult and child obesity rates, approximately 37 and 30 percent, respectively, were well above the state average in 2007 and 2008.

Among the report's recommendations are a call to fully implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and fully support healthy nutrition in federal food programs, as well as encourage use of the full scope of preventive health services that are available.

You can read all 124 pages of "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future" here.

Photo by Toby Alter via Flickr Creative Commons.

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