Cost-Effective Ways to Fight Childhood Obesity

Results from a five-year research project was recently published by The American Journal of Preventative Medicine. The project analyzed the cost-effectiveness of four childhood obesity intervention methods: 

  1. Sugar-sweetened beverage excise tax
  2. Getting rid of tax subsidies for advertising on children’s television
  3. Changing education and policies to develop and encourage healthy habits in early childhood stages (e.g. preschool settings)
  4. Increasing physical activity in schools

From the four approaches discussed in the journal, creating an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and getting rid of tax subsidies for advertising on children’s television stood out as the most successful low-cost and high-investment return approach to lowering children’s BMI. 

Here’s a breakdown of what they found were the most effective ways to reduce childhood obesity:

TV Ad Change

  • Lowered BMI/person for 2 years
  • Cost: $1.16/person
  • Generates: $80 million/year
  • Estimated Long-term Savings: $343 million in health care cost in the U.S. for 10 years. 

One-Cent-Per-Ounce Excise Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

  • Cost: $3.16/lowered BMI unit lowered
  • Generates: $12.5 billion/year
  • Estimated Long-term Savings: $23.2 billion in the U.S. for 10 years. 

Changing Rules For Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Building Healthy Habits in Preschools

  • Cost: $57.80/BMI unit avoided in the first year of preschool
  • Estimated Long-term Savings: $51.6 million in health care costs. 

The New York Times discusses the newly published results in detail and talks about why early intervention is crucial to lowering risks of obesity.

The best time to intervene, he emphasized, is when children are young and small changes — “an energy gap of only about 30 calories a day” — can have a major effect. Lowering an adult’s B.M.I. is far more challenging, requiring a sustained deficit of about 500 calories a day, “but preventing childhood obesity lays the groundwork for a future reduction in adult obesity,” Dr. Gortmaker said.

To learn more about the above mentioned obesity intervention methods, click here to read the full article