The report adds to the growing body of evidence
of obesity’s impact on medical costs. Another study
released in July showed that obese Americans cost the
country about $147 billion in weight-related medical
bills in 2008, double what it was a decade ago. Much
of that was financed by Medicare and Medicaid,
government health insurance for seniors and families on
low incomes, the report says. Obesity-related medical
bills now account for about 9. 1 percent of medical
spending, compared with 6. 5 percent in 1998.
“The medical costs attributable to obesity are almost
entirely a result of costs generated from treating the
diseases that obesity promotes,” says the report’s lead
author Dr. Eric Finkelstein, director of the Public
Health Economics Program at North Carolina–based
RTI International, a research institute. He says as long
as obesity prevails to the extent that it does today, it will
continue to be a significant burden on healthcare.
YOUNGER AMERICANS GETTING FATTER, SICKER
ADULT OBESITY RATES HAVE DOUBLED since 1980,
from 15 percent to 30 percent, and childhood obesity
rates have nearly tripled since 1980, from 6. 5 percent
to 16. 3 percent, according to a Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies
are Failing in America.”
20 million Americans have Type 2
diabetes, and another 54 million have pre-diabetes, putting
them at high risk for developing diabetes.
1 in 4 Americans have some form of heart
disease, and 1 in 3 Americans have high blood pressure.
; Obesity and overweight are contributing factors to more
than 20 chronic diseases, including some cancers,
arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
; Today, obese children and teenagers are developing
obesity-related diseases—including diabetes, coronary
heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol
and Type 2 diabetes—that were formerly only seen in
adults, the report says.
; For instance, approximately
176,500 people younger
than 20 have Type 2 diabetes, and 2 million
adolescents ages 12–19 have pre-diabetes.
; The percentage of obese and overweight children (ages
10–17) is at or above 30 percent in 30 states.
Mississippi had the highest rate of obese and
overweight children, at 44. 4 percent.
According to the report, the health-related
consequences of obesity, including diabetes,
coronary heart disease, high blood pressure,
strokes, elevated cholesterol, cancer and other
adverse health effects, are dire.
“Overall, this generation of children could be the first
to have shorter, less healthy lives than their parents,” the
a diversityinc investigative report
FAST-FOOD, SNACK-FOOD AND SOFT-DRINK
COMPANIES aim advertising campaigns at children in
efforts to develop lifetime brand loyalty and capture mar-
ket shares, say public-health professionals and advocates.
McDonald’s pioneered the practice of marketing
to children, according to Corporate Accountability
In the words of Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s,
“a child who loves our TV commercials and brings
her grandparents to a McDonald’s gives us two more
customers.” McDonald’s also pioneered the practice of
putting its restaurants near—and inside—schools.
As for Ronald McDonald, “No icon has ever been
more effective in hooking kids on a harmful product,”
according to Deborah Lapidus, the senior organizer
for Corporate Accountability International, which also
waged campaigns against tobacco companies and was
behind the effort to retire Joe Camel from Camel ciga-
rettes. “Kids have become more obese and less healthy
on his watch. He’s a deep-fried Joe Camel for the 21st
century. He deserves a break, and so do our kids. This
clown is no friend to our children or their health.”
Author Eric Schlosser in his 2001 investigative book
“Fast Food Nation” said it’s no coincidence that the little
pieces of fast food in kids’ meals are wrapped up like
McDonald’s operates more than 8,000 playgrounds—
more playgrounds than any other private entity in the
United States—and is the largest toy distributor in the
world, Philadelphia attorney Jonathan Scott Goldman
says. Burger King operates more than 2,000 playgrounds.
“When Burger King created its ‘Kids Club’ in 1991,
sales of children’s meals tripled,” says Goldman. “Ninety
percent of children aged 3 to 9 eat at a McDonald’s
at least once per month and 96 percent of American
Children TARGE TING
June 2010 133