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Research Matters No. 81: Current and Future Medical Costs of Childhood Obesity in Alaska


June 2, 2014

Treating medical problems related to obesity among the current group of children and teenagers in Alaska will cost about $624 million (in today's dollars) over the next 20 years, according to a new analysis by Mouhcine Guettabi, assistant professor of economics at ISER. That includes costs for the 15% who are obese now, and will likely remain so as adults, as well as another 20% who aren't obese now but will become obese as adults.  

These are the first estimates of the medical costs associated with obesity among those ages 2 through 19 in Alaska today. The study also estimates the potential cost savings, if fewer children and teenagers were obese, and if fewer children grew up to be obese adults.  Reducing the share of obese children and teenagers in Alaska from 15% to 14% could save nearly $17 million (in today's dollars) over the next 20 years. If the share of children and teenagers who aren't currently obese but become obese adults could be cut by one percentage point, the savings over 20 years would be about $14 million (again, in today's dollars).     

The study, Current and Future Medical Costs of Obesity in Alaska, was done for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. To read it, click here. If you have questions, get in touch with Mouhcine Guettabi at mguettabi@alaska.edu.

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