Published January 19, 2016.
From the CEO
Can you guess what factor is draining resources from the U.S. economy at an annual rate that's double what we spend on defense? Research from the Institute published late last year identifies the culprit as our collective – and excessive – poundage. "Weighing Down America: the Health and Economic Impact of Obesity" estimates that the cost of treating obesity-related health conditions that range from diabetes to Alzheimer's, plus the loss in attendance and productivity at work, exceeds $1.4 trillion annually.
Yes, that's trillion with a "t." And remember, that huge number does not include the intangible, but no doubt immense, cost of obesity-related suffering and premature death.
Rather than simply outlining the dimensions of the problem, our study also points to solutions. And we brought further attention to the report's findings by launching it with a special briefing at the U.S. Senate by the report's authors, along with Louisiana senator (and physician) Bill Cassidy and Institute chairman Mike Milken, that focused on both the problem and the potential solutions.
The study is the latest example of the Institute's widening engagement in public health issues. Ten years ago, we published "An Unhealthy America," which calculated the total economic burden of chronic disease. Since then, Institute reports have provided the first-ever analysis of how lowering the consumption of sugary drinks would improve public health, a global look at how the transition to an information-based economy contributes to higher obesity rates, and an overview of studies on obesity prevention and intervention.
Our latest report on the health and economic impact of obesity was published by the Center for Public Health, now fully operational and will be the focus of the Institute's ongoing work in the field. Last year we convened the first-ever Public Health Summit, in Washington, DC. Participants from academia, government, industry and philanthropy told us that the event answered such a huge need that we decided to convene another in 2017 – and, quite possibly, every year thereafter.
Over the past two centuries, advances in public health and medical research have accounted for as much as half of all growth in the West when the economic value of good health and longevity are properly accounted for. For the rest of this century, we hope to do for public health what previous efforts have done for bioscience and medical research.
CEO and President
Michael Klowden, CEO and President