Australia facing $22 billion obesity bill by 2025

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Today, on World Obesity Day, the World Obesity Federation along with global health leaders, including the Lancet and the World Health Organization, is shining the spotlight on the staggering costs and continued impact of obesity, including new data showing the continued increase in childhood obesity and the financial consequences of untreated obesity at all ages.

Untreated, obesity is responsible for a significant proportion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and many types of cancer.  The global annual medical cost of treating these serious consequences of obesity is expected to reach $1.5 trillion per year by 2025[1].  In Australia the annual cost of treating these consequences is estimated to reach $22 billion, or cumulative costs of $163 billion between now and 2025.

In contrast, new figures from World Obesity Federation suggest that by spending just $4.4 billion to reduce the prevalence of obesity from 34% to 29% in Australia will help to avoid many of these consequences and their associated costs.

The World Obesity Federation data demonstrates how investing in the prevention, management and treatment of obesity is a cost-effective action for governments and health services. Investment can also help to achieve the 2025 targets set by the World Health Organization to halt the rise in obesity and to achieve a 25% relative reduction in mortality from NCDs. The World Obesity Federation are using World Obesity Day, 11th October, to urge governments, health service providers, insurers and philanthropic organisations to prioritise investment in tackling obesity.  This means 1) investing in treatment services to support people affected by obesity, 2) early intervention to improve the success of treatment and 3) prevention to reduce the need for treatment.

The President of the World Obesity Federation, Professor Ian Caterson, said, “Obesity is now a worldwide epidemic which absorbs a vast amount of our healthcare resources.  The annual medical costs of treating the consequences of obesity such as diabetes and heart disease is truly alarming.  We are using World Obesity Day this year to emphasis the cost-savings of tackling obesity now rather than waiting to treat the co-morbidities later.  Continual surveillance by World Obesity has shown how obesity prevalence has risen dramatically over the past 10 years and with an estimated 177 million adults suffering severe obesity by 2025, it is clear that Governments need to act now to reduce this burden on their national economies.”

Johanna Ralston, Chief Executive Officer of the World Obesity Federation said, “Addressing obesity now rather than treating the consequences is clearly going to be lifesaving and cost-saving, and an effective means for governments to meet their NCD targets.  There is now a real urgency to integrate obesity services into universal health coverage programmes.  The World Obesity Federation is here to help governments to meet this challenge.”

On World Obesity Day, the Lancet will be publishing new estimates of child and adolescent trends in obesity and undernourishment, produced by the World Health Organization.“We expect to see that child obesity is still rising in low and middle-income countries, with the absolute numbers of overweight children expected to exceed the numbers of undernourished children within the next few years”, said Dr Tim Lobstein at the World Obesity Federation. “If this is borne out, then governments and development agencies will have to tackle undernutrition while also tackling obesity, and will need ‘double-duty’ policies to provide the best nourishment for healthy growth.”

[1] WOD 2017 data. World Obesity Federation projections.