The Impact of Childhood Obesity on Business

More than two-thirds of adults and one-third of children and adolescents in the US are overweight or obese. This is the highest rate in our nation’s history. Researchers estimate that by 2030, up to 86% of Americans will be overweight and 51% will be obese. With these dire projections, all sectors of public and private life need to become actively involved.

The Institute of Medicine’s 2012 report, Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, notes the staggering statistics of obesity-related chronic disease and disability:

  • $190.2 billion (in 2005 dollars): Annual cost for treating obesity-related illness
  • $14 billion: Direct annual medical costs for childhood obesity
  • 43.3% (0-17 years of age): Australia’s rate for overweight and obese children

Implications for the Workplace

Increases in healthcare and utilization costs:

  1. In 2006, obese children had nearly twice as many physician office visits and 3 times the hospitalization rate as non-obese children.
  2. The per-person cost to private insurers for healthcare utilization was $3,547 and $1,346 for obese and non-obese children, respectively.

Increases in absenteeism and decreases in productivity:

  1. On average, a sick school-age child can cost an employee 4 days away from work each year. This number is even higher for preschool-age children.
  2. Research shows that parents with a child in poor health do not perform as well at work as parents with a healthy child and are more likely to experience interruptions.

Today’s overweight and obese children are tomorrow’s workforce:

  1. Research indicates that obesity in childhood influences the likelihood of obesity in adulthood.
  2. An overweight child (3 to 5 years old) has a 40% chance of becoming an obese adult; an overweight teenager has a nearly 80% chance.
  3. Researchers predict this generation of children will be the first with a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Good Health Means Good Business

What business can do

By 2030, the cost and burden of treating adults for obesity and its related illnesses could be catastrophic. Investing to prevent childhood obesity today is an investment in the future. Australia’s corporate sector has a critical role to play.

Ensure a healthy future workforce:

  • Empower and train employees in healthy lifestyle practices for home and work, for their children as well as for themselves

Invest in our communities:

  • Provide activities that foster and develop healthy lifestyles
  • Support programs that create environments where healthy eating and physical activity are easy and available for everyone

Become an active voice within the business and civic communities:

  • Champion the cause of childhood obesity prevention to ensure a vital future workforce and a vital business sector in Australia